Collin v. Smith, No. 77 C 2982.

CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
Writing for the CourtHarvey Schwartz, Schwartz & Zaban, Chicago, Ill., for defendants
Citation447 F. Supp. 676
PartiesFrank COLLIN et al., Plaintiffs, v. Albert SMITH et al., Defendants.
Decision Date23 February 1978
Docket NumberNo. 77 C 2982.

447 F. Supp. 676

Frank COLLIN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Albert SMITH et al., Defendants.

No. 77 C 2982.

United States District Court, N. D. Illinois, E. D.

February 23, 1978.


447 F. Supp. 677
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447 F. Supp. 678
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447 F. Supp. 679
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447 F. Supp. 680
David A. Goldberger, American Civil Liberties Union, Chicago, Ill. for plaintiffs

Harvey Schwartz, Schwartz & Zaban, Chicago, Ill., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DECKER, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, the National Socialist Party of America and its leader, Frank Collin, bring this action challenging three ordinances of the Village of Skokie, Illinois, on the grounds that the ordinances deprive them of their rights to freedom of speech and assembly in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendants are the Village itself and its President, Village Manager and Corporation Counsel. On October 21, 1977, the court denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction but ordered the cause set for trial on an expedited schedule in view of the compelling national interest in prompt resolution of cases implicating First Amendment freedoms. The case was tried to the bench on December 2, 1977, and has now been submitted for judgment on the trial record and additional documentary evidence admitted by stipulation of the parties. This Memorandum Opinion constitutes the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law for purposes of F.R.Civ.P. 52(a).

I. Factual Background

Skokie is a municipal corporation north of Chicago, which is generally regarded in the Chicago area as a predominantly Jewish community. In fact, as of 1974, it had 40,500 Jewish residents out of a total population of approximately 70,000. Under the Illinois Constitution, Skokie is a home rule unit and as such has plenary legislative authority to enact ordinances for the protection of the public welfare within its borders. Ill.Const. Art. VII, § 6(a).

Plaintiff Collin testified that the National Socialist Party is "a Nazi organization", and that in public appearances its members wear uniforms reminiscent of those worn by members of the German Nazi Party during the rule of the Third Reich. Specifically, plaintiffs employ the swastika as a party symbol. Among their more controversial political views, plaintiffs believe that black persons are "biologically inferior" to whites and should be "repatriated" to Africa, and that American Jews have excessive influence in government and close ties to international Communism. Collin stated that this Jewish influence should be "exposed and documented and presented to the American public", but denied that plaintiffs endorse the Third Reich's "final solution" to the problem of Jewish influence — genocide.

In late 1976, plaintiffs planned a series of demonstrations in Jewish communities, including Skokie. According to plaintiffs' publications, this campaign was based on the belief that Jews are responsible for busing and racial integration in the Chicago school system, which plaintiffs have been protesting in other parts of the Chicago area. Plaintiffs were denied permission to demonstrate in a Skokie park because of a Skokie Park District ordinance which required them to obtain $350,000 in liability and property damage insurance.

447 F. Supp. 681

Plaintiffs then planned a demonstration in the Village to protest the Park District ordinance. The demonstration was set for May 1, 1977. On March 20, Collin notified Skokie Police Chief Kenneth Chamberlain of plaintiffs' plans and assured him that the demonstration would be brief, peaceful and orderly. News of the planned demonstration caused considerable consternation in Skokie. The situation was exacerbated by the appearance of some of plaintiffs' handbills within the Village and by a rash of offensive and threatening telephone calls to Skokie residents with Jewish surnames. Although there is no evidence that plaintiffs were responsible for these calls,1 they undoubtedly stirred public sentiment against the proposed demonstration. As a result of this sentiment, the Village decided to attempt to prevent the demonstration. It obtained a preliminary injunction against the demonstration in state court, which has since been vacated, and on May 2, 1977, enacted the three ordinances at issue in this action.

Ordinance # 994 is a comprehensive permit system for all parades or public assemblies of more than 50 persons anywhere within Skokie. It requires all permit applicants to obtain $300,000 in liability insurance and $50,000 in property damage insurance. Ordinances # 995 and # 996 are both criminal measures: # 995 prohibits the dissemination of material which incites racial or religious hatred, with intent to incite such hatred; # 996 prohibits public demonstrations by members of political parties while wearing military-style uniforms. These ordinances are also enforced through the permit mechanism of # 994. A specific provision of that ordinance, § 27-56(c), requires that a permit be denied to public assemblies which will engage in the activity prohibited by # 9952 and a catch-all provision relating to assemblies organized for unlawful purposes, § 27-56(i), serves the same function for # 996.

On June 22, 1977, Collin applied for a permit under # 994. The application recited that the proposed public assembly would take place on July 4, would consist of 30 to 50 people demonstrating in front of the Village Hall, would last about a half hour, and would not disrupt traffic. It stated further that the participants would wear uniforms including swastikas and carry placards carrying statements such as "White Free Speech", "Free Speech for the White Man", and "Free Speech for White Americans", but would not distribute handbills or literature. The evidence shows that the location selected for the parade was in a commercial, rather than residential area of Skokie. Finally, the application stated that plaintiffs could not obtain the required insurance, and requested that the Village either waive the requirement or assist plaintiffs in finding an insurer. The application was denied by defendant John Matzer, the Village Manager, on the grounds that plaintiffs planned to wear military-style uniforms in violation of # 996. Plaintiffs responded by bringing this action.

II. Preliminary Issues

As in all actions to invalidate state laws on constitutional grounds, the court must begin by considering the various doctrines which limit the intrusion of the federal courts into the operation of state government. All three ordinances impose criminal penalties for their violation. Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1116, 14 L.Ed.2d 22 (1965), held that the federal district courts have jurisdiction over actions for declaratory and injunctive relief against state criminal statutes on the grounds that they violate the First Amendment through vagueness and overbreadth.3 Although Dombrowski has been restricted as to injunctive relief by Younger v. Harris,

447 F. Supp. 682
401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 94 S.Ct. 1209, 39 L.Ed.2d 505 (1974), held that declaratory relief may still be granted when there is an imminent threat of prosecution if the plaintiffs exercise their First Amendment rights. Plaintiffs have requested both declaratory and injunctive relief. Accordingly, if plaintiffs have satisfied the other prerequisites for the exercise of federal jurisdiction, the prayer for declaratory relief provides a basis for this action under Steffel. The question of possible injunctive relief will be discussed later

The first questions are whether plaintiffs have standing to challenge these ordinances, and, if so, whether their challenge is ripe for adjudication. Standing requires that the ordinances pose a direct, immediate threat to plaintiffs' rights. There can be no question of plaintiffs' standing to challenge # 996: it is conceded that plaintiffs comprise a political party whose members customarily wear military-style uniforms, and if they carry out their planned demonstration in Skokie they will be in clear violation of the ordinance. As to # 995, the question is slightly less clear since plaintiffs' application stated that they do not intend to distribute literature, hateinciting or otherwise, in Skokie. However, as discussed below, the definition of "dissemination of materials" in # 995 is quite broad, and specifically includes display of signs and wearing of clothing "of symbolic significance". Moreover, the court finds that ordinance # 995 was specifically intended to apply to the display of Nazi regalia and propaganda.4 The "clothing of symbolic significance" clause was clearly directed at plaintiffs' Third Reich style uniforms and swastikas, and much of defendants' evidence dealt with the significance of these symbols to Jewish survivors of World War II. Accordingly, there is a substantial probability that any demonstration by plaintiffs in Skokie would result in their arrest for violation of # 995, and plaintiffs have standing to challenge the ordinance.

The only standing question with regard to # 994 is whether plaintiffs need a permit at all, since their proposed assembly would consist only of 30 to 50 persons. The ordinance actually requires a permit for any assembly in which the number of participants "may reasonably be assumed to exceed 50", § 27-51. Thus, one who holds an assembly without a permit which more than 50 persons attend would violate the ordinance if it were found that he should have reasonably assumed more than 50 would attend. In light of the criminal penalties the ordinance imposes for lack of foresight, the court feels that plaintiffs are the best judge of their need for a permit and have standing to challenge # 994.

The only thing currently keeping plaintiffs from demonstrating in Skokie and violating ordinances # 995...

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25 practice notes
  • Aguilar v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, Inc, RENT-A-CAR
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 21, 1996
    ...words doctrine to speech that presents an actual danger it will cause a breach of the peace. (See Collin v. Smith (N.D.Ill.1978) 447 F.Supp. 676, 691.) The curious result is that the doctrine protects those who are likely to react with violence, but not those who are too fearful to fight ba......
  • Cimarron Alliance v. City of Oklahoma City, Ok, No. CIV-01-1827-C.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Western District of Oklahoma
    • September 13, 2002
    ...enforce it according to their personal prejudices. Smith v. Goguen, 415 U.S. 566, 94 S.Ct. 1242, 39 L.Ed.2d 605 (1974); Collin v. Smith, 447 F.Supp. 676, 691 (N.D. Ill.), aff'd 578 F.2d 1197 (7th Cir.1978). In First Amendment cases, the doctrine has an added dimension, since a vague statute......
  • Courtemanche v. General Services Admin., No. Civ.A. 00-10879-DPW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • September 26, 2001
    ...insurance requirement are necessary and directly related to the accomplishment of legitimate governmental purposes. See Collin v. Smith, 447 F.Supp. 676, 685 (N.D.Ill.1978) (noting lack of record evidence that municipality had ever been threatened with damage by a public assembly which woul......
  • Coruzzi, Matter of
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 20, 1984
    ...merely because its enactment was inspired by a specific example of the evil which it seeks to suppress." Collin v. Smith, 447 F.Supp. 676, 682 n. 4 (N.D.Ill.) (dictum), aff'd, 578 F.2d 1197 (7th Cir.), cert. den., 439 U.S. 916, 99 S.Ct. 291, 58 L.Ed.2d 263 The third constitutional violation......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Aguilar v. Avis Rent-A-Car System, Inc, RENT-A-CAR
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 21, 1996
    ...words doctrine to speech that presents an actual danger it will cause a breach of the peace. (See Collin v. Smith (N.D.Ill.1978) 447 F.Supp. 676, 691.) The curious result is that the doctrine protects those who are likely to react with violence, but not those who are too fearful to fight ba......
  • Cimarron Alliance v. City of Oklahoma City, Ok, No. CIV-01-1827-C.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Western District of Oklahoma
    • September 13, 2002
    ...enforce it according to their personal prejudices. Smith v. Goguen, 415 U.S. 566, 94 S.Ct. 1242, 39 L.Ed.2d 605 (1974); Collin v. Smith, 447 F.Supp. 676, 691 (N.D. Ill.), aff'd 578 F.2d 1197 (7th Cir.1978). In First Amendment cases, the doctrine has an added dimension, since a vague statute......
  • Courtemanche v. General Services Admin., No. Civ.A. 00-10879-DPW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • September 26, 2001
    ...insurance requirement are necessary and directly related to the accomplishment of legitimate governmental purposes. See Collin v. Smith, 447 F.Supp. 676, 685 (N.D.Ill.1978) (noting lack of record evidence that municipality had ever been threatened with damage by a public assembly which woul......
  • Coruzzi, Matter of
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • March 20, 1984
    ...merely because its enactment was inspired by a specific example of the evil which it seeks to suppress." Collin v. Smith, 447 F.Supp. 676, 682 n. 4 (N.D.Ill.) (dictum), aff'd, 578 F.2d 1197 (7th Cir.), cert. den., 439 U.S. 916, 99 S.Ct. 291, 58 L.Ed.2d 263 The third constitutional violation......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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