Brief Fact Summary. The president of a union was found guilty of contempt of court for publishing a copy of a telegram saying his union would strike if an adverse decision, subject to a motion to a new trial, was enforced. The publisher of the Los Angeles Times was found guilty of contempt for publishing editorials on the pending sentencings of two members of a labor union. The propriety of the convictions was brought into question.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The substantive evil must be extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high before utterances can be punished.
Issue. Did the contempt convictions of Bridges and Times-Mirror violate their rights of free speech and free press?
Held. Yes. The lower court if reversed.
Justice Hugo Black (J. Black) The convictions at issue punished utterances made during the pendency of a case, thereby restricting speech at the precise time when public interest in the matter was at its peek. Therefore, the convictions cannot be dismissed as insignificant. The substantive evils the convictions were designed to avert were (1) disrespect for the judiciary and (2) disorderly and unfair administration of justice. As such, the means (the convictions) do not fit the ends (the substantive evils). First, an enforced silence would probably engender resentment, suspicion, and contempt for the bench, not the respect it seeks. Second, as to the Times-Mirror indictment, to regard the published statements concerning pending sentencing as having an influence on the course of justice, is to impute to judges a lack of firmness, wisdom or honor. Third, as to the Bridges situation, we cannot assume that the judge wasn’t already unaware of the possibility of a strike, which the laws o
f California do not prohibit anyway.
Such a declaration of the State's policy would weigh heavily in any challenge of the law as infringing constitutional limitations.View Full Point of Law