Thornhill v. Alabama

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Thornhill v. Alabama
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 2, 1938
Decided April 28, 1940
Full case nameThornhill v. State of Alabama
Citations310 U.S. 88 ( more )
60 S. Ct. 736; 84 L. Ed. 1093; 1940 U.S. LEXIS 1153
Prior history28 Ala.App. 527; 189 So. 913 (1923)
Holding
The free speech clause protects speech about the facts and circumstances of a labor dispute.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Charles E. Hughes
Associate Justices
James C. McReynolds  · Harlan F. Stone
Owen Roberts  · Hugo Black
Stanley F. Reed  · Felix Frankfurter
William O. Douglas  · Frank Murphy
Case opinions
MajorityMurphy, joined by Hughes, Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas
DissentMcReynolds

Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88 (1940), is a US labor law case of a United States Supreme Court. It reversed the conviction of the president of a local union for violating an Alabama statute that prohibited only labor picketing. Thornhill was peaceably picketing his employer during an authorized strike when he was arrested and charged. In reaching its decision, Associate Justice Frank Murphy wrote for the Supreme Court that the free speech clause protects speech about the facts and circumstances of a labor dispute. The statute in the case prohibited all labor picketing, but Thornhill added peaceful labor picketing to the area protected by free speech. [1]

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a small range of cases, such as suits between two or more states, and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about 100–150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review.

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

Frank Murphy Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

William Francis Murphy was a Democratic politician and jurist from Michigan. He was named to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1940 after a political career that included stints as Governor of Michigan and Mayor of Detroit. He also served as the last Governor General of the Philippine Islands and the first High Commissioner of the Philippines.

Contents

Facts

Byron Thornhill was convicted of "loitering or picketing" near a place of business, pursuant to § 3448 of the 1923 Code of Alabama. [2] Thornhill had been charged with loitering near the Brown Wood Preserving Company with the "intent or purpose of influencing others" to interfere with lawful business during a strike by a local union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. After his conviction in the Inferior Court of Tuscaloosa County, he appealed to the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County. He was originally fined "$100 and costs," but was sentenced to prison for 59 days after not paying. After he failed his appeal, the circuit court increased the prison time to 73 days. Furthermore, the court of appeals affirmed the rulings of the two lower courts. The Alabama Supreme Court denied Thornhill's petition for certiorari, but the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently granted the petition.

Loitering is the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time without any apparent purpose. Under certain circumstances, it is illegal in various jurisdictions. Loitering also refers to indoor littering in some parts of the world.

American Federation of Labor Federation of U.S. labor unions, 1886-1955

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was a national federation of labor unions in the United States founded in Columbus, Ohio, in December 1886 by an alliance of craft unions disaffected from the Knights of Labor, a national labor union. Samuel Gompers of the Cigar Makers' International Union was elected president at its founding convention and reelected every year, except one, until his death in 1924. The A.F. of L was the largest union grouping in the United States for the first half of the 20th century, even after the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) by unions which were expelled by the AFL in 1935 over its opposition to industrial unionism. The Federation was founded and dominated by craft unions throughout its first fifty years, after which many craft union affiliates turned to organizing on an industrial union basis to meet the challenge from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1940s.

Tuscaloosa County, Alabama County in the United States

Tuscaloosa County is a county in the west central portion of the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, its population was 194,656. Its county seat and largest city is Tuscaloosa, the former state capital from 1826 to 1845. The county is named in honor of Tuskaloosa, a paramount chief of the Mississippian culture, who are considered ancestors of the historic Choctaw people of the region.

Charges

  1. The State of Alabama, by its Solicitor, complains of Byron Thornhill that, within twelve months before the commencement of this prosecution he did without just cause or legal excuse therefor, go near to or loiter about the premises or place of business of another person, firm, corporation, or association of people, to-wit: the Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation, engaged in a lawful business, for the purpose or with the intent of influencing or inducing other persons not to trade with, buy from, sell to, have business dealings with, or be employed by the said Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation, for the purpose of hindering, delaying, or interfering with or injuring the lawful business or enterprise of the said Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation. [2]
  2. The State of Alabama, by its Solicitor, complains of Byron Thornhill that, within twelve months before the commencement of this prosecution he did without just cause or legal excuse therefor, go near to or loiter about the premises or place of business of another person, firm, corporation, or association of people, to-wit: the Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation, engaged in a lawful business, for the purpose or with the intent of influencing or inducing other persons not to trade with, buy from, sell to, have business dealings with, or be employed by the said Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation. [2]
  3. The State of Alabama, by its Solicitor, complains of Byron Thornhill that, within twelve months before the commencement of this prosecution he did picket the works or place of business of another person, firm, corporation, or association of people, to-wit, the Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation, for the purpose of hindering, delaying, or interfering with or injuring the lawful business or enterprise of the said Brown Wood Preserving Company, Inc., a corporation. [2]

Judgment

The majority opinion reversed the lower courts' rulings by citing the freedoms of speech and the press granted in the first amendment, and secured by the fourteenth. The court also found the Alabama statute to be invalid on its face. [2]

Freedom of speech political right to communicate ones opinions and ideas

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term "freedom of expression" is sometimes used synonymously but includes any act of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely. Such freedom implies the absence of interference from an overreaching state; its preservation may be sought through constitutional or other legal protections.

First Amendment to the United States Constitution Law guaranteeing freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press and petitions and prohibiting establishment of an official religion

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Significance

Implicit in Thornhill was the idea that picketing could be curtailed if the picketers marched with signs that went beyond the issues in the particular labor dispute; this would come up in later cases. [3]

See also

Notes

  1. Ball, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior. Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN   0-19-507814-4. Page 202.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Justice Murphy's majority opinion" . Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  3. Ball, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior. Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN   0-19-507814-4. Page 202.

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References

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The Michigan Law Review is an American law review that was established in 1902 and is completely run by law students. It is the flagship law journal of the University of Michigan Law School and one of the top law journals in the United States.