In the Brockett case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Washington Statute was too broad because it prohibited material that created lust. Because lust is a normal sexual appetite, materials containing a call to lust enjoy First Amendment protection, according to the court. Therefore, a law that prohibits all material pleasure is constitutionally too broad. There are at least three reasons for the government`s push to create overly broad regulations. “Overwide.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overbroad. Retrieved 6 October 2022. FindLaw.com Free and reliable legal information for consumers and legal professionals For example, suppose a public school dress code policy prohibits “inappropriate or offensive” clothing. This general provision could discourage students from wearing t-shirts with political messages for fear that these messages would offend another student or be considered inappropriate by an overzealous school official. Such a provision would be considered too broad. The provision is also too vague, as the terms “inappropriate” and “offensive” are not defined and do not provide fair notice to students. LawInfo.com National Bar Directory and Consumer Legal Resources The FindLaw Legal Dictionary – free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.
Lawmakers sometimes pass laws that violate First Amendment`s freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly. If a legislature passes such a law, a person with a sufficient interest affected by the legislation may challenge its constitutionality by bringing an action against federal, state, or local sovereignty that it has enacted. A common argument in First Amendment challenges is that the law is too broad. A law that is too broad is a law that influences or regulates more behaviour than the law or regulation is intended to regulate. Overwidth is an abbreviation for the over-large doctrine, which provides that speech regulation can be too broad and prohibit both protected and unprotected speech. A regulation of freedom of expression is unconstitutionally too broad if it regulates a significant portion of constitutionally protected expressions of opinion. The superwide is closely related to its constitutional cousin, the vagueness. Speech regulation is unconstitutionally vague if a reasonable person cannot distinguish between permissible and impermissible speech because of the difficulty of attributing meaning to language.
This is the case when a law is too broad. That is, it influences or restricts more language than was originally intended when the law was passed. Abogado.com Spanish-language consumer legal website #1 In his majority opinion, Justice William Brennan found the law too broad, stating, “The dictionary definitions of `shameful` and `abusive` give them a broader scope than `fighting words.` In other words, Georgian law was simply too open. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly used the doctrine of excessive width to strike down general laws. In Gooding v. Wilson (1972), for example, the court overturned a protester`s conviction for violating the peace because of the scope of the Georgia law (Georgia Code Ann. § 26-6303), which prohibited individuals from uttering “offensive words or offensive language.” The defendant argued that the law was too broad, while the state responded that the law only applied to unprotected words of combat. The remedy in the Brockett case was not the complete invalidation of the law on psychological harassment. The Court ordered that the reference to lust be removed from the law, concluding that the rest of the law was valid.
The Statute, although originally too broad, was still valid because it contained a severability clause and was still in force even after the deletion of its overly broad part. The doctrine of propensity remains a primary tool used by constitutional litigators in First Amendment cases. The U.S. Supreme Court continues to strike down laws based on the doctrine of propagation. For example, in United States v. Alvarez (2012), the court struck down a law that criminalized lying about earning military honors, called the Stolen Valor Act. Similarly, the Court struck down a federal law criminalizing the distribution of material depicting cruelty to animals in United States v. Stevens (2010). The court argued that the law was too broad because it could apply to hunting videos. The widespread doctrine is a “strong medicine” and should only be applied if the excess width is “substantial”.
In Broadrick v. Oklahoma (1973) that overly broad application of the law must be meaningful in relation to the “clearly legitimate scope” of the law. It is not enough to find one or two hypothetical applications of the overreach of a law. There must be many situations where the law is too broad. Sometimes a law that seems too broad is interpreted more narrowly by a court with a so-called restrictive interpretation. A law banning “offensive, annoying, or harassing” speech in another public place may seem too broad, but a state high court may have limited that law to apply only to unprotected words of combat. Airport officials tried to ban advertising at the airport. Curiously, however, the regulation they drafted was too broad. It would technically prohibit writing, speaking, wearing campaign buttons and other forms of protected expression.
Justice Sandra Day O`Connor stated in her unanimous opinion for the court: “On its face, the resolution at issue in this case reaches the realm of expressive activity and purports to create a virtual `First Amendment free zone` to LAX by prohibiting all protected expression.” One of the first cases in which the Supreme Court recognized that overly broad legislation suppressed freedom of expression involved picketing in the 1930s. In Thornhill v. Alabama, the court ruled that the complete ban on picketing in the Southern state, which prohibits “peaceful and truthful discussion of matters of public interest” and violent actions, was too broad. The Court further recognized the deterrent effects of laws so far-reaching as to restrict First Amendment-protected freedom of expression. (Photo of trade unionists demonstrating Macy`s in New York circa 1934 by Dorothea Lange, public domain by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) If a law is too broad, the court may be able to save the law by deleting only the section that is too broad. If the court cannot separate the law and safeguard the constitutional provisions, it can declare the whole law invalid. Another example of overly broad regulation comes from the Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc. (1987). The Airport Board of Commissioners had passed a resolution banning all “First Amendment activities” at the airport. Excessive breadth is an extremely important concept in the First Amendment Act and a key tool for constitutional litigants.
A law is too broad – or too broad – if it not only covers speech that should be banned, but also punishes speech that should be protected. At FindLaw.com, we pride ourselves on being the leading source of free legal information and resources on the Internet. Contact us. Are you a lawyer? Visit our professional website » The Supreme Court implicitly recognized the overreach in two 1940 decisions. In Thornhill v. In Alabama (1940), the Court struck down the application of a complete labour ban that prohibited “peaceful and truthful discussion of matters of public interest” and violent acts. In Cantwell v. In Connecticut (1940), the court held that a “breach of the peace” law could not be interpreted broadly as “suppressing the free communication of religious or other opinions under the pretext of preserving desirable conditions.” In both cases, however, the Court refrained from invalidating the law in question and instead sought a restrictive interpretation of its application. SuperLawyers.com Directory of U.S. Attorneys with exclusive rating Super Lawyers Hudson, David. First Amendment: freedom of speech. Eagan, MN: West, a Thomson Reuters company (2012).
Under the doctrine of propagation, a law that interferes with First Amendment rights is unconstitutional if it prohibits more protected speech or activity than is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest. Undue interference with First Amendment rights beyond what the government had a compelling interest in renders the law unconstitutional. The doctrine of propensity remains a primary tool used by constitutional litigators in First Amendment cases. The U.S. Supreme Court continues to strike down laws based on the doctrine of propagation. For example, in United States v. Alvarez (2012), the court struck down a law that criminalized lying about the acquisition of military honors, called the Stolen Valor Act.