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City of Houston, Texas v. Hill

Law Dictionary

Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.483 U.S. 1001, 107 S. Ct. 3222, 97 L. Ed. 2d 729 (1987)

Brief Fact Summary. Appellee Raymond Hill observed a friend blocking traffic to allow a vehicle to enter traffic. Appellee also observed the police confronting his friend about his actions, and at that time Appellee yelled to the police to “pick on someone their own size.” Appellee was then indicted, but never convicted under a Houston ordinance prohibiting verbal challenges to police officers. Appellee now seeks to have that ordinance declared unconstitutional.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A law is unconstitutional if it criminalizes a substantial amount of free speech and gives the police unconstitutional discretion in enforcement.

Facts. Appellee, observed a friend intentionally stopping traffic on a busy street in Houston, to allow a vehicle to enter traffic. Two Houston police officers then confronted the friend of the Appellee, and when one named Officer Kelley began talking to him, Appellee began shouting at the officers in an admitted attempt to divert Officer Kelley’s attention from his friend. Appellee shouted at Officer Kelley to pick on someone his own size, to which Officer Kelley asked Appellee if he was interrupting his duties as a police officer. Appellee then stated that yes he was, and shouted to Officer Kelley to once again pick on someone his own size. Appellee was then arrested under a Houston ordinance that prohibited “willfully or intentionally interrupting a city policeman by verbal challenge during an investigation.” Appellee was acquitted after a nonjury trial in municipal court. Following his acquittal, Appellee brought a suit in District Court seeking judgment that the ordinance was un
constitutional on its face and as applied to him. The District Court held that Appellee’s evidence did not demonstrate that the ordinance had been unconstitutionally applied. The Court of Appeals reversed, causing the City of Houston, Texas to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Issue. Whether the Houston ordinance inhibits the free expression of ideas protected by the First Amendment?
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