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Frisby v. Schultz

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.487 U.S. 474, 108 S. Ct. 2495, 101 L. Ed. 2d 420 (1988)

Brief Fact Summary. The Appellees, Sandra Schultz and Robert Braun (Appellees), challenge a Brookfield, Wisconsin ordinance that prohibits picketing in front of residences in the town. In their challenge, the Appellees claim that the ordinance unconstitutionally restricts their right to free speech. In district court they were granted an injunction, which was upheld by the Court of Appeals. The Appellant, the City of Brookfield (Appellant) appeals to the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. An ordinance that restricts speech directed primarily at those who are presumptively unwilling to receive it, is a substantial and justifiable interest for the State and is a constitutional restriction of speech so long as the nature and scope of the ban is narrowly tailored and the ordinance leaves ample alternative channels of communication and is content neutral.


Facts. The Appellees, being individuals who are strongly opposed to abortion, picketed in front of the home of a doctor who performs abortions. The Appellees picketed in front of his house between April 20, 1985 and May 20, 1985 on several occasions. This violated the Appellees’ ordinance that completely bans picketing “before or about” any residence. The picketing was generally orderly and peaceful and the town never had occasion to invoke any of its ordinances prohibiting obstruction of the streets, loud and unnecessary noises, or disorderly conduct. Nonetheless the picketing generated numerous complaints. On May 7, 1985, the town outlawed all picketing in residential neighborhoods except for labor picketing, which was repealed several days later for fear of being declared unconstitutional because of the labor exception. The town then passed the flat ban that was described earlier. The Appellees ceased picketing in Brookfield and filed this lawsuit in Federal District Court seeking
declaratory as well as preliminary and permanent injunctive relief on the grounds the ordinance violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution). The district court granted the injunction, which was upheld by the Court of Appeals. The Appellant town appealed to the Supreme Court.

Issue. Is the Appellant town ordinance, which restricts picketing in residential neighborhoods narrowly tailored to serve the government’s substantial interest in banning it?

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