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Boos v. Berry

    Citation. 485 U.S. 312, 108 S. Ct. 1157, 99 L. Ed. 2d 333, 1988 U.S.

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, Boos (Petitioner), wants to display signs in front of the embassies in Washington, D.C. There is a local statute that prohibits such displays if they are negative.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Content-based restriction on political speech in a public forum is subjected to strict scrutiny. To be constitutional, the regulation must be necessary to serve a compelling state interest that is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.


    Facts. Washington, D.C. has a code that prohibits people from displaying signs within 500 feet of a foreign embassy if the signs will bring the foreign government into “public odium” or “public disrepute”. The Petitioner wants to display a sign in front of the Soviet embassy that reads, “RELEASE SAKHOROV.”

    Issue. Does this restriction violate the First Amendment constitutional right to free speech?

    Held. Yes. The display statute regulates speech based on it potential impact. It prohibits political speech and is clearly content-based. Protecting foreign dignitaries from insults is not a compelling governmental interest in support of a content-based regulation.

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    Discussion. This regulation focuses on what a picket card would say. It discriminates between the types of speech because a picket sign regarding employment disputes would be allowed while political opinions that are negative are prohibited.

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