341 U.S. 622 (1951), 399, Breard v. Alexandria

Docket NºNo. 399
Citation341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233
Party NameBreard v. Alexandria
Case DateJune 04, 1951
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 622

341 U.S. 622 (1951)

71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233

Breard

v.

Alexandria

No. 399

United States Supreme Court

June 4, 1951

Argued March 7-8, 1951

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

A so-called "Green River ordinance" of a municipality forbids the practice of going in and upon private residences for the purpose of soliciting orders for the sale of goods without prior consent of the owners or occupants. Appellant, representing a foreign corporation, was engaged in door-to-door soliciting of subscriptions for nationally known magazines and periodicals. Subscriptions were acknowledged by a card sent from the home office of the corporation, and the publications were delivered by the publishers in interstate commerce through the mails. Appellant was convicted of a violation of the ordinance solely because he had not obtained the prior consent of the owners or occupants of the residences he solicited.

Held:

1. The ordinance is not invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 629-633.

(a) The ordinance can be characterized as prohibitory of appellant's legitimate business of obtaining subscriptions to periodicals only in the limited sense of subscriptions by house-to-house canvass without invitation. It leaves open the usual methods of solicitation -- by radio, periodicals, mail and local agencies. Pp. 631-632.

(b) The Constitution's protection of property rights does not render a state or city impotent to guard its citizens against the annoyances of life because the regulation may restrict the manner of doing a legitimate business. Pp. 632-633.

2. The ordinance does not so burden or impede interstate commerce as to violate the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 633-641.

(a) The ordinance does not discriminate against interstate business and is a valid local regulation of solicitation. Hood & Sons v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525, and Dean Milk Co. v. Madison, 340 U.S. 349, distinguished. Pp. 633-641.

(b) Appellant, as a publishers' representative or in his own right as a door-to-door canvasser, is no more free to violate local regulations to protect privacy than are other solicitors. Pp. 637-641.

Page 623

(c) When there is a reasonable basis for legislation to protect the social, as distinguished from the economic, welfare of a community, it is not for this Court, because of the Commerce Clause, to deny the exercise locally of the sovereign power of the state. Pp. 640-641.

3. The ordinance does not abridge the freedom of speech and press guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 641-645.

(a) The fact that periodicals are sold does not put them beyond the protection of the First Amendment. Pp. 641-642.

(b) The constitutional guaranties of free speech and free press are not absolutes. P. 642.

(c) Martin v. Struthers, 319 U.S. 141; Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501; and Tucker v. Texas, 326 U.S. 517, distinguished. Pp. 642-644.

(d) It would be a misuse of the great guaranties of free speech and free press to use them to force a community to admit the solicitors of publications to the home premises of its residents. P. 645.

217 La. 820, 47 So.2d 553, affirmed.

Page 624

REED, J., lead opinion

[71 S.Ct. 923] MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellant here, Jack H. Breard, a regional representative of Keystone Readers Service, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, was arrested while going from door to door in the City of Alexandria, Louisiana, soliciting subscriptions for nationally known magazines. The arrest was solely on the ground that he had violated an ordinance because he had not obtained the prior consent of the owners of the residences solicited. Breard, a resident of Texas, was in charge of a crew of solicitors who go from house to house in the various cities and towns in the area under Breard's management and solicit subscriptions for nationally known magazines and periodicals, including among others the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, Country Gentleman, Holiday, Newsweek, American Home, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Pic, Parents, Today's Woman, and True. These solicitors spend only a few days in each city, depending upon its size. Keystone sends a card from its home office to the new subscribers acknowledging receipt of the subscription, and thereafter the periodical is forwarded to the subscriber by the publisher in interstate commerce through the mails.

The ordinance under which the arrest was made, so far as is here pertinent, reads as follows:

Section 1. Be it ordained by the council of the city of Alexandria, Louisiana, in legal session convened, that the practice of going in and upon private residences in the City of Alexandria, Louisiana by solicitors, peddlers, hawkers, itinerant merchants, or transient vendors of merchandise, not having been requested or invited so to do by the owner or owners, occupant, or occupants of said private residences for the purpose of soliciting orders for the sale of goods, wares and merchandise and/or disposing of and/or

Page 625

peddling or hawking the same is declared to be a nuisance, and punishable as such nuisance as a misdemeanor.

It, or one of similar import, has been on the statute books of Alexandria for many years. It is stipulated that:

Such ordinance was enacted by the City Council, among other reasons, because some householders complained to those in authority that, in some instances, for one reason or another, solicitors were undesirable or discourteous, and some householders complained that, whether a solicitor was courteous or not, they did not desire any uninvited intrusion into the privacy of their home.

The protective purposes of the ordinance were underscored by the Supreme Court of Louisiana in its opinion. 217 La. 820, 47 So.2d 553, at 555.

At appellant's trial for violation of the ordinance, there was a motion to quash on the ground that the ordinance violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution; that it violates the Federal Commerce Clause, art. 1, § 8, cl. 3; and that it violates the guarantees of the First Amendment of freedom of speech and of the press, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Appellant's motion to quash was overruled by the trial court, and he was found guilty and sentenced to pay a $25 fine or serve 30 days in jail. The Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed appellant's conviction, and expressly rejected the federal constitutional objections. 217 La. 820, 47 So.2d 553. The case is here on appeal, 28 U.S.C. § 1257, Jamison v. Texas, 318 U.S. 413.

All declare for liberty, and proceed to disagree among themselves as to its true meaning. There is equal unanimity that opportunists, for private gain, cannot be permitted

Page 626

to arm themselves with an acceptable principle, such as that of a right to work, a privilege to engage in interstate commerce, or a free press, and proceed to use it as an iron standard to smooth their path by crushing the living rights of others to privacy and repose. This case calls for an adjustment of constitutional [71 S.Ct. 924] rights in the light of the particular living conditions of the time and place. Everyone cannot have his own way, and each must yield something to the reasonable satisfaction of the needs of all.

It is true that the knocker on the front door is treated as an invitation or license to attempt an entry, justifying ingress to the home by solicitors, hawkers and peddlers for all kinds of salable articles.1 When such visitors are barred from premises by notice or order, however, subsequent trespasses have been punished.2 Door-to-door canvassing has flourished increasingly in recent years, with the ready market furnished by the rapid concentration of housing. The infrequent and still welcome solicitor to the rural home became, to some, a recurring nuisance in towns when the visits were multiplied.3 Unwanted

Page 627

knocks on the door by day or night are a nuisance, or worse, to peace and quiet. The local retail merchant, too, has not been unmindful of the effective competition furnished by house-to-house selling in many lines. As a matter of business fairness, it may be thought not really sporting to corner the quarry in his home and, through his open door, put pressure on the prospect to purchase. As the exigencies of trade are not ordinarily expected to have a higher rating constitutionally than the tranquillity of the fireside, responsible municipal officers have sought a way to curb the annoyances while preserving complete freedom for desirable visitors to the homes. The idea of barring classified salesmen from homes by means of notices posted by individual householders was rejected early as less practical than an ordinance regulating solicitors.4

The Town of Green River, Wyoming, undertook in 1931 to remedy by ordinance the irritating incidents of house-to-house canvassing for sales. The substance of that ordinance, so far as here material, is the same as that of Alexandria, Louisiana.5 The Green River ordinance was sustained by the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Tenth Circuit in 1933 against an attack by a nonresident corporation, a solicitor of orders, through a bill for an injunction to prohibit its enforcement, on the federal constitutional grounds of interference with interstate commerce, deprivation of property without due process of law, and denial of the equal protection of the laws. Town

Page 628

of Green River v. Fuller Brush Co., 65 F.2d 112. No review of that decision was sought. An employee of the Brush Company challenged [71 S.Ct. 925] the same ordinance again in the courts of Wyoming in 1936 on a prosecution by the town for the misdemeanor of violating its terms. On this attack, certain purely state grounds were relied upon, which we need not notice, and the charges of violation of the...

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459 practice notes
  • 382 So.2d 687 (Fla. 1980), 55182, State v. Elder
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court of Florida
    • April 3, 1980
    ...L.Ed.2d 1073 (1978); Rowan v. United States Post Office Dept., 397 U.S. 728, 90 S.Ct. 1484, 25 L.Ed.2d 736 (1970); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951); Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 69 S.Ct. 448, 93 L.Ed. 513 (1949); and State v. Keaton, supra. 8 In Rowan......
  • 405 A.2d 438 (N.J.Super.L. 1979), New Chancellor Cinema, Inc. v. Town of Irvington
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court of New Jersey
    • June 26, 1979
    ...1614, 52 L.Ed.2d 155 (1977); Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 559, 85 S.Ct. 453, 476, 13 L.Ed.2d 471, 487 (1965); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951). Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U.S. 50, 96 S.Ct. 2440, 49 L.Ed.2d 310 (1976), involved challen......
  • 635 P.2d 281 (Nev. 1981), 12252, Princess Sea Industries, Inc. v. State, Clark County
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • October 28, 1981
    ...Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 97 S.Ct. 2691, 53 L.Ed.2d 810 (1977) (lawyer advertising of fees). Contra, Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 Page 285 L.Ed. 1233 (1951); Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52, 62 S.Ct. 920, 86 L.Ed. 1262 (1942). However, as the Court ......
  • 58 Misc.2d 905, People v. Stabile
    • United States
    • January 24, 1969
    ...so obtrusive as to make it impossible for an unwilling individual to avoid exposure to it,' cf., Breard v. City of Alexandria (1951), 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233; Public Utilities Commission of District of Columbia v. Pollak (1952), 343 U.S. 451, 72 S.Ct. 813, 96 L.Ed. 1068. (......
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432 cases
  • 382 So.2d 687 (Fla. 1980), 55182, State v. Elder
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court of Florida
    • April 3, 1980
    ...L.Ed.2d 1073 (1978); Rowan v. United States Post Office Dept., 397 U.S. 728, 90 S.Ct. 1484, 25 L.Ed.2d 736 (1970); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951); Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 69 S.Ct. 448, 93 L.Ed. 513 (1949); and State v. Keaton, supra. 8 In Rowan......
  • 405 A.2d 438 (N.J.Super.L. 1979), New Chancellor Cinema, Inc. v. Town of Irvington
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court of New Jersey
    • June 26, 1979
    ...1614, 52 L.Ed.2d 155 (1977); Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 559, 85 S.Ct. 453, 476, 13 L.Ed.2d 471, 487 (1965); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951). Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U.S. 50, 96 S.Ct. 2440, 49 L.Ed.2d 310 (1976), involved challen......
  • 635 P.2d 281 (Nev. 1981), 12252, Princess Sea Industries, Inc. v. State, Clark County
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • October 28, 1981
    ...Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350, 97 S.Ct. 2691, 53 L.Ed.2d 810 (1977) (lawyer advertising of fees). Contra, Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 Page 285 L.Ed. 1233 (1951); Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52, 62 S.Ct. 920, 86 L.Ed. 1262 (1942). However, as the Court ......
  • 58 Misc.2d 905, People v. Stabile
    • United States
    • January 24, 1969
    ...so obtrusive as to make it impossible for an unwilling individual to avoid exposure to it,' cf., Breard v. City of Alexandria (1951), 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233; Public Utilities Commission of District of Columbia v. Pollak (1952), 343 U.S. 451, 72 S.Ct. 813, 96 L.Ed. 1068. (......
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4 firm's commentaries
  • Can the state enact legislation that affects contracts entered into before the legislation took affect?
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • December 23, 1974
    ...interest may be restrained. State ex rel. Sanborn v. Koscot Interplanetary, Inc., 212 Kan. 668, 512 P.2d 416 (1973); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951); Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 15 S.Ct. 586, 39 L.Ed. 657 (1895). See also, Railway Express A......
  • Are Iowa statutes prohibiting referral sales programs constitutional?
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • August 13, 1971
    ...to be essentially injurious to public welfare. E.g., Brady v. Mattern, 125 Iowa 158, 162, 100 N.W. 358. See Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 632--633, 71 S.Ct. 920, 927, 95 L.Ed. 1233. [14] This includes sales practices or promotional schemes legislatively deemed, within constitu......
  • Do the business activities of Koscot violate Kansas State's unlawful business practices act?
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • August 13, 1973
    ...in the public interest and persons may be restrained from certain contracts adversely affecting that interest. (Breard v. Alexandria,341 U.S. 622, 632, 95 L.Ed 1233, 71 S.Ct. 920; Frisbie v. United States,157 U.S. 160, 165, 39 L.Ed 657, 15 S.Ct. 586.) In Ferguson v. Skrupa,372 U.S. 726, 10 ......
  • The Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code: Context, Content, and Critique
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • February 2, 2015
    ...or license to attempt an entry, justifying ingress to the home by so- licitors, hawkers and peddlers of all kinds.” Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 626, 71 S.Ct. 920, 95 L.Ed. 1233 (1951). This implicit license typically permits the visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock ......
16 books & journal articles
  • Beyond Romer and Lawrence: the right to privacy comes out of the closet.
    • United States
    • Columbia Journal of Gender and Law Vol. 15 Nbr. 2, June 2006
    • June 22, 2006
    ...(1886)). See also id. at 483-85 (citing NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958); Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961); Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951); Public Utilities Comm'n v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451 (1952); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961); Lanza v. New York, 370 U.S. 139 (1962); F......
  • From Nike v. Kasky to Martha Stewart: first amendment protection for corporate speakers' denials of public criminal allegations.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 94 Nbr. 4, June 2004
    • June 22, 2004
    ...418 U.S. 915 (1974). (65) Cent. Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of N.Y., 447 U.S. 557 (1980). (66) Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951); Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (67) 316 U.S. at 54. (68) Va. State Bd. of Pharmacy v. Va. Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 4......
  • The butt stops here: the Tobacco Control Act's anti-smoking regulations run afoul of the First Amendment.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 76 Nbr. 1, September 2012
    • September 22, 2012
    ...street could be restricted, but acknowledging that non-commercial material would be treated differently); see also Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622, 644-45 (1951) (upholding ban on door-to-door solicitation of magazine subscriptions), abrogated by Vill. of Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Bet......
  • Exceptions to Standard Free Speech Doctrine
    • United States
    • The Path of Constitutional Law Part IV: The Final Cause Of Constitutional Law Sub-Part Four: The First Amendment
    • January 1, 2007
    ...Elec. Corp. v. Public Service Comm'n, 447 U.S. 557, 561-64 (1980). [218] 316 U.S. 52, 54-55 (1942). [219] Breard v. City of Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951) (door-to-door sellers); Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483 (1955) (optical appliances). [220] 405 U.S. 1000 (1972) (holding th......
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