414 U.S. 14 (1973), 72-1366, Norwell v. City of Cincinnati

Docket Nº:No. 72-1366
Citation:414 U.S. 14, 94 S.Ct. 187, 38 L.Ed.2d 170
Party Name:Norwell v. City of Cincinnati
Case Date:November 05, 1973
Court:United States Supreme Court

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414 U.S. 14 (1973)

94 S.Ct. 187, 38 L.Ed.2d 170



City of Cincinnati

No. 72-1366

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 5, 1973




Cincinnati's disorderly conduct ordinance operated to deprive petitioner of his constitutionally protected freedom of speech, where it appeared that he was arrested and convicted merely because he verbally and negatively protested the arresting officer's treatment of him, and there was no use of abusive language or fighting words. Certiorari granted; reversed.

Per curiam opinion.


Petitioner Edward Norwell, on a plea of not guilty, was convicted of a violation of Cincinnati's disorderly conduct ordinance. The charge was that petitioner "did unlawfully and willfully conduct himself in a disorderly manner, with intent to annoy some person." The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Ohio Court of Appeals. Further appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio was dismissed by that court sua sponte "for the reason that no substantial constitutional question exists herein." We are persuaded that the ordinance, as applied to this petitioner on the facts of his case, operated to punish his constitutionally protected speech. We therefore grant certiorari and reverse.

The ordinance, § 901-D4 of the city's Municipal Code, reads:

No person shall willfully conduct himself or herself in a noisy, boisterous, rude, insulting or other disorderly manner, with the intent to abuse or annoy any person. . . .

Petitioner, 69 years of age and an immigrant 20 years ago, is employed by his son who manages and is part

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owner of a "pony keg," a small package liquor store. Petitioner works at the pony keg every evening, and helps his son "because it is very dangerous." There have been break-ins at the store on several occasions, and a former owner was killed there.

On Christmas night, 1971, the pony keg closed about 10:30. The son drove home, but petitioner "wanted to take a walk and get home at 11:00 to hear the news." Down the street, he was approached by Officer Johnson, who had been notified that a "suspicious man" was in the neighborhood of the pony keg. Officer Johnson testified that he approached petitioner and asked him if he lived in the area. Petitioner looked at him, "and then he turned around and walked away." The officer twice attempted to stop him, but, each time, petitioner threw off his arm and protested, "I don't tell you people anything." He did not run. Petitioner then was placed...

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