447 U.S. 455 (1980), 79-703, Carey v. Brown

Docket Nº:No. 79-703
Citation:447 U.S. 455, 100 S.Ct. 2286, 65 L.Ed.2d 263
Party Name:Carey v. Brown
Case Date:June 20, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 455

447 U.S. 455 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 2286, 65 L.Ed.2d 263

Carey

v.

Brown

No. 79-703

United States Supreme Court

June 20, 1980

Argued April 15, 1980

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

An Illinois statute generally prohibits picketing of residences or dwellings, but exempts from its prohibition peaceful picketing of a place of employment involved in a labor dispute. Appellees were convicted in state court of violating this statute when they picketed the Mayor of Chicago's home in protest against his alleged failure to support the busing of schoolchildren to achieve racial integration. Thereafter, appellees brought suit in Federal District Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the statute is unconstitutional on its face and as applied, and an injunction prohibiting appellant and other state and local officials from enforcing the statute. The District Court denied all relief, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the statute, both on its face and as applied to appellees, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Held: The Illinois statute is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since it makes an impermissible distinction between peaceful labor picketing and other peaceful picketing. Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92. Pp. 459-471.

(a) In prohibiting peaceful picketing on the public streets and sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, the statute regulates expressive conduct that falls within the First Amendment's preserve, and, in exempting peaceful labor picketing from its general prohibition, the statute discriminates between lawful and unlawful conduct based upon the content of the demonstrator's communication. On its face, the statute accords preferential treatment to the expression of views on one particular subject; information about labor disputes may be freely disseminated but discussion of all other issues is restricted. The permissibility of residential picketing is thus dependent solely on the nature of the message being conveyed. Pp. 459-463.

(b) Standing alone, the State's asserted interest in promoting the privacy of the home is not sufficient to save the statute. The statute makes no attempt to distinguish among various sorts of nonlabor picketing on the basis of the harms they would inflict on the privacy interest. More fundamentally, the exclusion of labor picketing cannot be upheld as a means of protecting residential privacy for the simple reason that

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nothing in the content-based labor-nonlabor distinction has any bearing on privacy. Pp. 464-465.

[100 S.Ct. 2288] (c) Similarly, the State's interest in providing special protection for labor protests cannot, without more, justify the labor picketing exemption. Labor picketing is no more deserving of First Amendment protection than are public protests over other issues, particularly the important economic, social, and political subjects about which appellees wished to demonstrate. Pp. 466-467.

(d) Nor can the statute be justified as an attempt to accommodate the competing rights of the homeowner to enjoy his privacy and the employee to demonstrate over labor disputes, since such an attempt hinges on the validity of both of these goals, the latter of which -- the desire to favor one form of speech over all others -- is illegitimate. Likewise, the statute cannot be justified as an attempt to prohibit picketing that would impinge on residential privacy while permitting picketing that would not. Numerous types of peaceful picketing other than labor picketing would have but a negligible impact on privacy interests, and numerous other actions of a homeowner might constitute "nonresidential" uses of his property, and would thus serve to vitiate the right to residential privacy. Pp. 467-469.

(e) While the State's interest in protecting the wellbeing, tranquility, and privacy of the home is of the highest order, the crucial question is whether the statute advances that objective in a manner consistent with the Equal Protection Clause. Because the statute discriminates among pickets based on the subject matter of their expression, the answer to that question must be "No." Pp. 470-471.

602 F.2d 791, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a concurring opinion, post p. 471. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 472

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BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

At issue in this case is the constitutionality under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of a state statute that generally bars picketing of residences or dwellings, but exempts from its prohibition "the peaceful picketing of a place of employment involved in a labor dispute."

I

On September 6, 1977, several of the appellees, all of whom are members of a civil rights organization entitled the Committee Against Racism, participated in a peaceful demonstration on the public sidewalk in front of the home of Michael Bilandic, then Mayor of Chicago, protesting his alleged failure to support the busing of schoolchildren to achieve racial integration. They were arrested and charged with unlawful residential picketing in violation of Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38, § 21.1-2 (1977), which provides:

It is unlawful to picket before or about the residence or dwelling of any person, except when the residence or dwelling is used as a place of business. However, this Article does not apply to a person peacefully picketing his own residence or dwelling, and does not prohibit the peaceful picketing of a place of employment involved in a labor dispute or the place of holding a meeting or assembly on premises commonly used to discuss subjects of general public interest.1

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[100 S.Ct. 2289] Appellees pleaded guilty to the charge, and were sentenced to periods of supervision ranging from six months to a year.

In April, 1978, appellees commenced this lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Illinois residential picketing statute is unconstitutional on its face and as applied, and an injunction prohibiting defendants -- various state, county, and city officials -- from enforcing the statute. Appellees did not attempt to attack collaterally their earlier state court convictions, but requested only prospective relief. Alleging that they wished to renew their picketing in residential neighborhoods but were inhibited from doing so by the threat of criminal prosecution under the residential picketing statute, appellees challenged the Act under the First and Fourteenth Amendments as an overbroad, vague, and, in light of the exception for labor picketing, impermissible content-based restriction on protected expression. The District Court, ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, denied all relief. Brown v. Scott, 462 F.Supp. 518 (1978).

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. Brown v Scott, 602 F.2d 791 (1979). Discerning "no principled basis" for distinguishing the Illinois statute from a similar picketing prohibition invalidated in Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972), the court concluded that the Act's differential treatment of labor and nonlabor picketing could not be justified either by the important state

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interest in protecting the peace and privacy of the home or by the special character of a residence that is also used as a "place of employment." Accordingly, the court held that the statute, both on its face and as applied to appellees, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.2 We noted probable jurisdiction. 444 U.S. 1011 (1980). We affirm

II

As the Court of Appeals observed, this is not the first instance in which this Court has had occasion to consider the constitutionality of an enactment selectively proscribing peaceful picketing on the basis of the placard's message. Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, supra, arose out of a challenge to a Chicago ordinance that prohibited picketing in front of any school other than one "involved in a labor dispute."3 We held that the ordinance violated the Equal Protection Clause because it impermissibly distinguished between labor picketing and all other peaceful picketing without

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any showing that the latter was "clearly more disruptive" than the former. 408 U.S. at 100. Like the Court of Appeals, we find the Illinois residential picketing statute at issue in the [100 S.Ct. 2290] present case constitutionally indistinguishable from the ordinance invalidated in Mosley.

There can be no doubt that, in prohibiting peaceful picketing on the public streets and sidewalks in residential neighborhoods, the Illinois statute regulates expressive conduct that falls within the First Amendment's preserve. See, e.g., Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88 (1940); Gregory v. Chicago, 394 U.S. 111, 112 (1969); Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, 394 U.S. 147, 152 (1969).

Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.

Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496, 515 (1939) (opinion of Roberts, J.).

[S]treets, sidewalks, parks, and other similar public places are so historically associated with the exercise of First Amendment rights that access to them for the purpose of exercising such rights cannot constitutionally be denied broadly and absolutely.

Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507, 515 (1976) (quoting Food Employees v. Logan Valley Plaza, 391 U.S. 308, 315 (1968)).

Nor can it be seriously disputed that, in...

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