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Case Basics
Docket No. 
William F. Davis
(argued the cause for the plaintiff in error)
(Attorney General of Massachusetts, argued the cause for the defendant in error)
Facts of the Case 

An ordinance in the City of Boston prohibited any person from making "any public address" on public grounds without permission of the mayor. In 1894, Rev. William F. Davis attempted to preach in Boston Commons, a public park. Davis was arrested, fined, and jailed for violating the ordinance. Davis appealed his conviction, arguing, in part, that the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause's protection of property entailed a right to access public property. On appeal, in an opinion authored by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts rejected Davis' contention and denied his claim.


Did Davis' arrest for violating the city ordinance banning addresses on public property violate his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of property?


No. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Edward D. White, the Court found the law did not contain "any proof whatever as to the nature of the ownership in the common from which it can be deduced that the plaintiff…had any particular right to use the common apart from the general enjoyment." The Court agreed with the lower court's conclusion that the legislature and the state had the power to exercise authority over public property, the Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding. "The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not destroy the power of the states to enact police regulations as to the subjects within their control."

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DAVIS v. MASSACHUSETTS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1896/1896_229>.
DAVIS v. MASSACHUSETTS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1896/1896_229 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"DAVIS v. MASSACHUSETTS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1896/1896_229.