402 U.S. 415 (1971), 135, Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe

Docket Nº:No. 135
Citation:402 U.S. 415, 91 S.Ct. 1575, 29 L.Ed.2d 1
Party Name:Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe
Case Date:May 17, 1971
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 415

402 U.S. 415 (1971)

91 S.Ct. 1575, 29 L.Ed.2d 1

Organization for a Better Austin



No. 135

United States Supreme Court

May 17, 1971

Argued January 20, 1971




Respondent real estate broker applied for and obtained from the Illinois courts an injunction enjoining petitioners from distributing any literature in the City of Westchester, on the ground that [91 S.Ct. 1576] their leaflets, critical of respondent's alleged "blockbusting" and "panic peddling" activities in the Austin area of Chicago, invaded respondent's right of privacy, and were coercive and intimidating, rather than informative, thus not being entitled to First Amendment protection.

Held: Respondent has not met the heavy burden of justifying the imposition of the prior restraint of petitioners' peaceful distribution of informational literature of the nature disclosed by this record. Pp. 418-420.

115 Ill.App.2d 236, 253 N.E.2d 76, reversed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which BLACK, DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. HARLAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 420.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted the writ in this case to consider the claim that an order of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, enjoining petitioners from distributing leaflets anywhere in the town of Westchester, Illinois, violates petitioners' rights under the Federal Constitution.

Petitioner Organization for a Better Austin (OBA) is a racially integrated community organization in the

Page 416

Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Respondent is a real estate broker whose office and business activities are in the Austin neighborhood. He resides in Westchester, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago some seven miles from the Austin area.

OBA is an organization whose stated purpose is to "stabilize" the racial ratio in the Austin area. For a number of years, the boundary of the Negro segregated area of Chicago has moved progressively west to Austin. OBA, in its efforts to "stabilize" the area -- so it describe its program -- has opposed and protested various real estate tactics and activities generally known as "blockbusting" or "panic peddling."

It was the contention of OBA that respondent had been one of those who engaged in such tactics, specifically that he aroused the fears of the local white residents that Negroes were coming into the area and then, exploiting the reactions and emotions so aroused, was able to secure listings and sell homes to Negroes. OBA alleged that, since 1961, respondent had from time to time actively promoted sales in this manner by means of flyers, phone calls, and personal visits to residents of the area in which his office is located, without regard to whether the persons solicited had expressed any desire to sell their homes. As the "boundary" marking the furthest westward advance of Negroes moved into the Austin area, respondent is alleged to have moved his office along with it.

Community meetings were arranged with respondent to try to persuade him to change his real estate practices. Several other real estate agents were prevailed on to sign an agreement whereby they would not solicit property, by phone, flyer, or visit, in the Austin community. Respondent who has consistently denied that he is engaging in "panic peddling" or "blockbusting" refused to sign, contending that it was his right under Illinois law to solicit real estate business as he saw fit.

Page 417

Thereafter, during September and October of 1967, members of petitioner organization distributed leaflets in Westchester describing respondent's activities. There was no evidence of picketing in Westchester. The challenged publications, now enjoined, were critical of respondent's real estate practices in the Austin neighborhood; one of the leaflets set out the business card respondent used to solicit listings, quoted him as saying "I only sell to Negroes," cited a Chicago Daily News article describing his real estate activities and accused him of being a "panic peddler." Another leaflet, of the same general order...

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