362 U.S. 60 (1960), 154, Talley v. California

Docket Nº:No. 154
Citation:362 U.S. 60, 80 S.Ct. 536, 4 L.Ed.2d 559
Party Name:Talley v. California
Case Date:March 07, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court

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362 U.S. 60 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 536, 4 L.Ed.2d 559




No. 154

United States Supreme Court

March 7, 1960

Argued January 13-14, 1960




Over petitioner's protest that it invaded his freedom of speech and press in violation of the Fourteenth and First Amendments to the Federal Constitution, he was convicted of violating a city ordinance which forbade distribution, in any place under any circumstances, of any handbill which did not have printed thereon the name and address of the person who prepared, distributed or sponsored it.

Held: the ordinance is void on its face, and the conviction is reversed. Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444. Pp. 60-66.

172 Cal.App.2d Supp. 797, 332 P.2d 447, reversed.

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented here is whether the provisions of a Los Angeles City ordinance restricting the distribution of handbills "abridge the freedom of speech and of the press secured against state invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution."1 The ordinance, § 28.06 of the Municipal Code of the City of Los Angeles, provides:

No person shall distribute any handbill in any place under any circumstances, which does not have

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printed on the cover, or the face [80 S.Ct. 537] thereof, the name and address of the following:

(a) The person who printed, wrote, compiled or manufactured the same.

(b) The person who caused the same to be distributed; provided, however, that in the case of a fictitious person or club, in addition to such fictitious name, the true names and addresses of the owners, managers or agents of the person sponsoring said handbill shall also appear thereon.

The petitioner was arrested and tried in a Los Angeles Municipal Court for violating this ordinance. It was stipulated that the petitioner had distributed handbills in Los Angeles, and two of them were presented in evidence. Each had printed on it the following:

National Consumers Mobilization,

Box 6533,

Los Angeles 55, Calif.

PLeasant 9-1576.

The handbills urged readers to help the organization carry on a boycott against certain merchants and businessmen, whose names were given, on the ground that, as one set of handbills said, they carried products of "manufacturers who will not offer equal employment opportunities to Negroes, Mexicans, and Orientals." There also appeared a blank which, if signed, would request enrollment of the signer as a "member of National Consumers Mobilization," and which was preceded by a statement that "I believe that every man should have an equal opportunity for employment no matter what his race, religion, or place of birth."

The Municipal Court held that the information printed on the handbills did not meet the requirements of the ordinance, found the petitioner guilty as charged, and fined him $10. The Appellate Department of the Superior

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Court of the County of Los Angeles affirmed the conviction, rejecting petitioner's contention, timely made in both state courts, that the ordinance invaded his freedom of speech and press in violation of the Fourteenth and First Amendments to the Federal Constitution.2 172 Cal.App.2d Supp. 797, 332 P.2d 447. Since this was the highest state court available to petitioner, we granted certiorari to consider this constitutional contention. 360 U.S. 928.

In Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, we held void on its face an ordinance that comprehensively forbade any distribution of literature at any time or place in Griffin, Georgia, without a license. Pamphlets and leaflets, it was pointed out, "have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty,"3 and enforcement of the Griffin ordinance "would restore the system of license and censorship in its baldest form." Id. at 452. A year later, we had before us four ordinances each forbidding distribution of leaflets -- one in Irvington, New Jersey, one in Los Angeles, California, one [80 S.Ct. 538] in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one

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in Worcester, Massachusetts. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147. Efforts were made to distinguish these four ordinances from the one held void in the Griffin case. The chief grounds urged for distinction were that the four ordinances had been passed to prevent either frauds, disorder, or littering, according to the records in these cases, and another ground urged was that two of the ordinances applied only to certain city areas. This Court refused to uphold the four ordinances on those grounds, pointing out that there were other ways to accomplish these legitimate aims without abridging freedom of speech and press. Frauds, street littering, and disorderly conduct could be denounced and punished as offenses, the Court said. Several years later we followed the Griffin and Schneider cases in striking down a Dallas, Texas, ordinance which was applied to prohibit the dissemination of information by the distribution of handbills. We said that, although a city could punish any person for conduct on the streets if he violates a valid law,

one who is rightfully on a street . . . carries with him there as elsewhere the constitutional right to express his views in an orderly fashion . . . by handbills and literature as well as by the spoken word.

Jamison v. Texas, 318 U.S. 413, 416.

The broad ordinance now before us, barring distribution of "any handbill in any place under any circumstances,"4 falls precisely under the ban of our prior cases unless this ordinance is saved by the qualification that handbills can be distributed if they have printed on them the names and addresses of the persons who prepared, distributed

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or sponsored them. For, as in Griffin, the ordinance here is not limited to handbills whose content is "obscene or offensive to public morals or that advocates unlawful conduct."5 Counsel has urged that this ordinance is aimed at providing a way to identify those responsible for fraud, false advertising and libel. Yet the ordinance is in no manner so limited, nor have we been referred to any legislative history indicating such a purpose. Therefore, we do not pass on the validity of an ordinance limited to prevent these or any other supposed evils. This ordinance simply bars all handbills under all circumstances anywhere that do not have the names and addresses printed on them in...

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