Freedom Of Speech In Debs V. United States

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The Supreme Court has been entrusted with the task of interpreting the Constitution of the United States. In the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of speech serves as the foundational liberty which is the cornerstone to the practice of democracy. Commencing at the early part of the twentieth century cases such as Schenck v. United States, Debs v. United States, Abrams v United States, Whitney v. California, and Dennis v. United States, paved the way for the Court to set the legal standard for defining protected and unprotected speech. Nonetheless, the Court has struggled to interpret said boundaries property and has failed to protect speech in some of the above cases. This essay will analyze two different scenarios where the Court…show more content…
United States proved the Court’s abridgment of First Amendment protections of political speech. Similar to the Schenck case, Mister Debs’ criminal conviction for advocating against joining the draft was upheld by the Court. In this case the Court explained that the defendant “attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty” to the arm forces during wartime. Mister Deb’s dissemination of the message “you need to know that you are fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder,” was construed as harmful speech based on the “clear and present danger test.” Justice Holmes delivered the Court’s opinion once again. Although the government has the authority to curtail free speech rights, and punish speech that incites violence and harm, the First Amendment provides far reaching boundaries for the advocacy of political…show more content…
United States deals with the second scenario and the government’s ability to prosecute leaders of well-organized political parties. The Court also developed new legal tests to measure the risk speech causing harm; the risk formula approach. The risk formula approach questions whether the gravity of the evil justifies the invasion of free speech in order to avoid danger. In Dennis v. Unites States, the Court found that the Secretary of the Communist party in the United States did not have First Amendment protections of free speech, assembly and publication of their political doctrines. Chief Justice Vinson stated in the Court’s decision that Dennis violated the Smith Act, for advocating the overthrowing of the U.S. government. He further added that it was the Court’s responsibility to decide what constitutes evil to justify the invasion of free speech in order to avoid dangers. Both Justices Black and Douglas wrote dissenting opinions where they clarify that Dennis was not charged
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