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Gitlow v. New York

Citation. 268 U.S. 652, 45 S. Ct. 625, 69 L. Ed. 1138, 1925 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioner, Gitlow (Petitioner), published a communist manifesto for distribution in the United States. He was charged with plotting to overthrow the United States government.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

State statutes are unconstitutional if they are arbitrary and unreasonable attempts to exercise authority vested in the state to protect public interests.


The Petitioner was charged with criminal anarchy because he was an advocate of socialist reform in the United States. The Petitioner is a member of the Left Wing Section of the Socialist Party. He served as the business manager for the paper that was run by the organization. In 1919 he published the group’s manifesto and prepared for widespread distribution from the New York City headquarters.


Did the statute prohibiting such activity deprive the Petitioner of his First Amendment constitutional right to freedom of expression?


No. The current statute is not an unreasonable or arbitrary means of exercising the state’s police power. It is within the state’s power to prevent the disturbance of the peace and regulate speech that may incite crime even if the threat of such action is not immediate.


A state may not prohibit speech unless it presents a clear and present danger to the public interest.


Freedom of speech and press do not confer an absolute right to publish or speak without being held responsible for the results of such speech. The state may regulate to protect its interests in general welfare of its citizens.

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