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Brandenburg v. Ohio

Law Dictionary
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Stone

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Citation. 395 U.S. 444, 89 S. Ct. 1827, 23 L. Ed. 2d 430, 1969 U.S. 1367.

Brief Fact Summary. An Ohio law prohibited the teaching or advocacy of the doctrines of criminal syndicalism. The Defendant, Brandenburg (Defendant), a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, made a speech promoting the taking of vengeful actions against government and was therefore convicted under the Ohio Law.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and it is likely to incite or produce such action.


Facts. The Ohio Criminal Syndicalism Act (the “Act”) made it illegal to advocate “crime, sabotage, violence or . . . terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.” It also prohibited “assembling with any society, group, or assemblage or persons formed to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism. The Defendant, a leader in the Ku Klux Klan, made a speech promoting the taking of revenge against the government if it did not stop suppressing the white race and was therefore convicted under the Act.

Issue. Did the Statute, prohibiting public speech that advocated certain violent activities, violate the Defendant’s right to free speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?

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