316 U.S. 52 (1942), 707, Valentine v. Chrestensen

Docket Nº:No. 707
Citation:316 U.S. 52, 62 S.Ct. 920, 86 L.Ed. 1262
Party Name:Valentine v. Chrestensen
Case Date:April 13, 1942
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 52

316 U.S. 52 (1942)

62 S.Ct. 920, 86 L.Ed. 1262




No. 707

United States Supreme Court

April 13, 1942

Argued March 31, 1942




1. A municipal ordinance forbidding distribution in the streets of printed handbills bearing commercial advertising matter, held constitutional. P. 54.

2. A constitutional right to distribute in the streets handbills of printed commercial advertising matter, contrary to a municipal ordinance, cannot be acquired by adding to the handbills matter of possible public interest which, by itself, might be privileged but which is added with the purpose of evading the prohibition of the ordinance with respect to the advertising matter. P. 55.

122 F.2d 511, reversed.

CERTIORARI, 314 U.S. 604, to review a decree which affirmed a decree, 34 F.Supp. 596, permanently enjoining the Police Commissioner of the City of New York from interfering with distribution of respondent's handbills.

ROBERTS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondent, a citizen of Florida, owns a former United States Navy submarine which he exhibits for profit.

Page 53

In 1940 he brought it to New York City and moored it at a State pier in the East River. He prepared and printed a handbill advertising the boat and soliciting visitors for a stated admission fee. On his attempting to distribute the bill in the city streets, he was advised by the petitioner, as Police Commissioner, that this activity would violate § 318 of the Sanitary Code, which forbids distribution in the streets of commercial and business advertising matter,1 but was told that he might freely distribute [62 S.Ct. 921] handbills solely devoted to "information or a public protest."

Respondent thereupon prepared and showed to the petitioner, in proof form, a double faced handbill. On one side was a revision of the original, altered by the removal of the statement as to admission fee but consisting only of commercial advertising. On the other side was a protest against the action of the City Dock Department in refusing the respondent wharfage facilities at a city pier for the exhibition of his submarine, but no commercial advertising. The Police Department advised that distribution of a bill containing only the protest would not violate § 318, and would not be restrained, but that distribution of the double faced bill was prohibited. The respondent, nevertheless, proceeded with the printing of his proposed bill and started to distribute it. He was restrained by the police.

Page 54

Respondent then brought this suit to enjoin the petitioner from interfering with the distribution. In his complaint, he alleged diversity of citizenship; an amount in controversy in excess of...

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