MARTIN v. STRUTHERS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
238
Appellant 
Martin
Appellee 
City of Struthers, Ohio
Advocates
(argued the cause for the appellant)
(argued the cause for the appellee)
(argued the cause for the appellee)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Martin was a Jehovah's Witness in Struthers, Ohio. She canvassed neighborhoods knocking on doors and ringing doorbells to distribute leaflets promoting a meeting. She was convicted and fined $10 for violating a city ordinance that prohibited a person who was distributing leaflets and other flyers from knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. She appealed her conviction in the Circuit Court of Mahoning County, alleging that the city ordinance violated her First Amendment free speech and free press rights. The Circuit Court upheld the ordinance and her conviction. The Supreme Court of Ohio dismissed her appeal.

Question 

Did the city ordinance prohibiting the ringing of doorbells and knocking on doors by a person distributing promotional materials violate the free speech and free press clauses of the First Amendment?

Conclusion 

Yes. In a 5-4 decision, the Court reversed the Supreme Court of Ohio and held Struthers' ordinance unconstitutional. In the majority opinion written by Justice Hugo L. Black, the Court acknowledged the city's interest in preventing crime and reducing nuisances. However, alternative solutions, such as trespassing laws, were also available that could achieve the city's purpose. Activities like Martin's were "so clearly vital to the preservation of a free society that, putting aside reasonable police and health regulations of time and manner of distribution, it must be fully preserved." The ordinance was overly restrictive on door-to-door distributors, and therefore unconstitutional.

Cite this Page
MARTIN v. STRUTHERS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 17 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1942/1942_238>.
MARTIN v. STRUTHERS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1942/1942_238 (last visited October 17, 2014).
"MARTIN v. STRUTHERS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 17, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1942/1942_238.