Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
Boyle et al.
Lawrence Landry et al.
(for the appellant on original argument)
(for the appellant on reargument)
(for the appellant on second reargument)
(for the appellee)
Facts of the Case 

Plaintiffs, several African American residents of Chicago, sought declaratory and injunctive relief against a number of Officials of Cook County and Chicago for the enforcement of a number of Illinois Statutes and Chicago ordinances prohibiting mob action, resisting arrest, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and intimidation. Plaintiffs contended that the officials violated Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free speech by threatening enforcement of the statutes for the sole purpose of harassing and intimidating Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed the case in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. A three-judge court upheld all of the statutes except for one subsection that prohibited “the assembly of 2 or more persons to do an unlawful act” and one subsection a statute that prohibited intimidating a person by threats to commit any criminal offense. The court enjoined the officials from enforcing these two subsections. Defendants appealed the decision as to the intimidation statute.


Does an Illinois statute prohibiting the use of intimidation to commit a criminal offense violate freedom of speech?

Decision: 8 votes for Boyle, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Abstention Doctrine

No. In an 8-1 decision, Justice Hugo L. Black delivered the opinion of the Court. The Court held that Plaintiffs were not in danger of any irreparable injury from threatened use of the statute in question. The plaintiffs had never been arrested, prosecuted, or charged under the statute in question. Furthermore, the complaint did not mention any specific threats made by Defendant. It looked as though Plaintiffs had searched state statutes and city ordinances in order to pick out the ones that police could potentially use in bad-faith prosecutions. Justice Black held that it is not proper to block state criminal prosecutions based on speculation about the future. Justice Byron White and Justice Thurgood Marshall concurred in the result. Justice William O. Douglas dissented, saying that although the plaintiffs had not been prosecuted under the statute, officials were using it to harass the plaintiffs, causing irreparable injury.

Cite this Page
BOYLE v. LANDRY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
BOYLE v. LANDRY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"BOYLE v. LANDRY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,