318 U.S. 413 (1943), 558, Jamison v. Texas

Docket Nº:No. 558
Citation:318 U.S. 413, 63 S.Ct. 669, 87 L.Ed. 869
Party Name:Jamison v. Texas
Case Date:March 08, 1943
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 413

318 U.S. 413 (1943)

63 S.Ct. 669, 87 L.Ed. 869




No. 558

United States Supreme Court

March 8, 1943

Argued February 12, 1943



1. Under the state law, the appellant in this case could appeal to no higher state court than that from which the appeal here was taken; and, since the judgment sustained a municipal ordinance the validity of which under the Federal Constitution was challenged, this Court has jurisdiction of the appeal under Jud.Code § 237(a). P. 414.

2. A municipal ordinance is a "statute" of the State, within the meaning of Jud.Code § 237(a). King Mf. Co. v. Augusta, 277 U.S. 100, followed. P. 414.

3. A municipal ordinance which, as construed and applied, prohibits the dissemination of information by handbills, held a denial of the freedom of the press and violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 415.

4. A State may not, consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibit the distribution of handbills in the pursuit of a clearly religious activity merely because the handbills invite the purchase of books for the improved understanding of the religion or because they seek to promote the raising of funds for religious purposes. P. 416.


BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellant, a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was charged with distributing handbills on the streets of Dallas, Texas, in violation of an ordinance of that city which prohibits their distribution. She was convicted in the Corporation Court of Dallas, and appealed to the

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County Criminal Court where, after a trial de novo, she was again convicted, and a fine of $5.00 and costs was imposed. Under Texas law, she could appeal to no higher state court,1 and since she properly raised federal [63 S.Ct. 671] questions of substance in both courts, the case is rightfully here on appeal under § 237(a) of the Judicial Code. King Manufacturing Co. v. Augusta, 277 U.S. 100. The appellee has asked us to reconsider the doctrine of the King Manufacturing Co. case under which this Court takes jurisdiction on appeal from judgments sustaining the validity of municipal ordinances. We see no reason for reconsidering the King Manufacturing Co. case, and follow it here.

We think the judgment below must be reversed because the Dallas ordinance denies to the appellant the freedom of press and of religion guaranteed to her by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution.

The stipulated facts show that the appellant, after three years of special training, had devoted many years to the work of the Jehovah's Witnesses. At the time of her arrest, the appellant was distributing handbills in an orderly and quiet manner to pedestrians whom she met on the street. On one side of the handbill was an invitation to attend a gathering in a Dallas park which was to be one of fifty simultaneous gatherings of Jehovah's Witnesses in as many cities to hear an address by a leader of the group on "Peace, Can It Last." The other side of the handbill repeated the invitation, and described at the bottom two books which explained the Jehovah's Witnesses' interpretation of the Bible and set out their religious views. This was followed by a statement that the books would be mailed "Postage Prepaid on your contribution of 25¢." While the books were not actually sold on the streets, the

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appellant would have delivered them to the home of any one who made the twenty-five cents contribution. The books would have cost her more than twenty-five cents.

The Dallas ordinance, which is set forth in the margin,2 has been construed by the state court to forbid the distribution of leaflets by the appellant in the fashion outlined above.3 The city seeks to uphold the ordinance here on the contention (a) that it is justified as an exercise...

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