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Texas v. Johnson

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 491 U.S. 397, 109 S. Ct. 2533, 105 L. Ed. 2d 342, 1989 U.S.

Brief Fact Summary. A conviction for burning the United States flag based on a Texas law was overturned after the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) found that the Texas law was unconstitutional.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The government generally has a freer hand in restricting expressive conduct than it has in restricting the written or spoken word. It may not, however, proscribe particular conduct because it has expressive elements. It is not simply the verbal or nonverbal nature of the expression, but the governmental interest at stake, that helps to determine whether a restriction on that expression is valid.

Facts. After publicly burning the American flag, the Defendant, Gregory Lee Johnson (Defendant), was convicted of desecrating a flag in violation of Texas law. The Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction.

Issue. Whether Defendant’s burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?
Whether the state’s interest in preserving the flag as a symbol of nationhood justifies Defendant’s conviction?

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