WHITNEY v. CALIFORNIA

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
3
Petitioner 
Whitney
Respondent 
California
Decided By 
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Charlotte Anita Whitney, a member of the Communist Labor Party of California, was prosecuted under that state's Criminal Syndicalism Act. The Act prohibited advocating, teaching, or aiding the commission of a crime, including "terrorism as a means of accomplishing a change in industrial ownership. . .or effecting any political change."

Question 

Did the Criminal Syndicalism Act violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments?

Conclusion 

In a unanimous decision, the Court sustained Whitney's conviction and held that the Act did not violate the Constitution. The Court found that the Act violated neither the Due Process Clause nor the Equal Protection Clause, and that freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment was not an absolute right. The Court argued "that a State. . .may punish those who abuse this freedom by utterances. . .tending to. . .endanger the foundations of organized government and threaten its overthrow by unlawful means" and was not open to question. The decision is most notable for the concurring opinion written by Justice Brandeis, in which he argued that only clear, present, and imminent threats of "serious evils" could justify suppression of speech.

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WHITNEY v. CALIFORNIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1925/1925_3>.
WHITNEY v. CALIFORNIA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1925/1925_3 (last visited November 26, 2014).
"WHITNEY v. CALIFORNIA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 26, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1925/1925_3.