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Consolidated Edison Co. of New York v. Public Service Commission

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Constitutional Law Keyed to Cohen

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Citation. 22 Ill.447 U.S. 530, 100 S. Ct. 2326, 65 L. Ed. 2d 319, 6 Med. L. Rptr. 1518 (1980)

Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, Consolidated Edison (Petitioner), sought to place written materials regarding nuclear power in its billing envelopes. The National Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) disagreed with this practice and filed a complaint with the Respondent, the Public Service Commission (Respondent), asking that Petitioner’s envelopes be opened to contrasting views.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. When no valid time, place and manner exception exists, political speech cannot be suppressed.


Facts. The Petitioner sought to place written materials regarding nuclear power in its billing envelopes. The NRDC disagreed with this practice and filed a complaint with the Respondent asking that Petitioner’s envelopes be opened to contrasting views. The Respondent did not grant this request, but instead barred utility companies from including any political viewpoints in their bill inserts. The Petitioner filed suit, seeking review of the bar on its political speech. The Court of Appeals of New York agreed with Respondent, that the order of the commission did not infringe on Petitioner’s First Amendment rights because inclusion of the Petitioner’s viewpoints in all envelopes infringed on the rights of their customers to not accept the speech and therefore the time, place and manner of the speech was inappropriate. The Petitioner Edison appealed to the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court), which granted certiorari.

Issue. This case considers whether it is constitutionally acceptable to suppress political viewpoints when they are shared with a mass audience, through envelope inserts.
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