KOVACS v. COOPER

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
9
Petitioner 
Charles Kovacs
Respondent 
Albert Cooper Jr., Judge of the First District Police Court of Trenton
Opinion 
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Charles Kovacs was driven around Trenton, New Jersey. He played music and spoke through an amplifier that he had placed on the truck in which he was riding. He was convicted for violating Ordinance No. 430 of the City of Trenton, which prohibited the use of sound amplifiers and other instruments that emitted "loud and raucous noises" on public streets. He appealed his conviction to the New Jersey Supreme Court, alleging that the ordinance violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld his conviction, as did the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals.

Question 

Did Trenton's Ordinance 430 violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment as applied through the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion 

No. In a 5-4 decision, the court affirmed the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals and upheld Kovacs' conviction. Writing for the three-justice plurality, Justice Stanley F. Reed reiterated that the "fundamental rights of the Bill of Rights are not absolute", and as in Saia v. New York, "the hours and place of public discussion can be controlled." Trenton was granted the authority to prevent "disturbing noises" and "protect the wellbeing and tranquility of a community." Since the ordinance furthered Trenton's interest in maintaining "the quiet and tranquility so desirable for city dwellers," the ordinance did not violate the Free Speech Clause. Justices Robert H. Jackson and Felix Frankfurter each concurred separately.

Cite this Page
KOVACS v. COOPER. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1948/1948_9>.
KOVACS v. COOPER, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1948/1948_9 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"KOVACS v. COOPER," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1949/1948/1948_9.