Free speech and democracy

Freedom of speech made clear

law and poetry: essays and poems


 This is a Brief of Whitney v. California, a 1925 case about the Free Speech of a Communist, Charlotte Whitney.  In later cases before the Supreme Court, the right of free speech would be strengthened more than the “imminent lawless action” test used on Charlotte Whitney Here, the mere idea that Charlotte Whitney’s speech advocated a clear and present danger, and that under the state Syndicates law by which she was convicted, her speech had a bad tendency to create an imminent lawless action, was found to be quite enough to uphold her conviction.  Free speech was valuable but Syndicacy was upheld, even though it outlawed mere advocacy of violence.  Nothing clear or present was required of the danger complained of in the law.

The Court would later require intent, imminence, and the likelihood the speech presented a clear and present danger, to overcome a guarantee of free…

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