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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
United States v. Haggerty, No. 89-1434
(Argued the cause for the appellees)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
Location: Congress
Facts of the Case 

In 1989, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act which made it a crime to destroy an American flag or any likeness of an American flag which may be "commonly displayed." The law did, however, allow proper disposal of a worn or soiled flag. Several prosecutions resulted from the Act. Eichman set a flag ablaze on the steps of the U.S. Capitol while protesting the government's domestic and foreign policy. Another prosecution (United States v. Haggerty) resulted from a flag-burning in Seattle protesting the passage of the Flag Protection Act.Both cases (Eichman's and Haggerty's) were argued together.


Did the Act violate freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment?

Decision: 5 votes for Eichman, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 700

In a 5-to-4 decision, coming on the heels of a similar holding in Texas v. Johnson (1989), the Court struck down the law because "its asserted interest is related to the suppression of free expression and concerned with the content of such expression." Allowing the flag to be burned in a disposal ceremony but prohibiting protestors from setting it ablaze at a political protest made that clear, argued Justice Brennan in one of his final opinions.

Cite this Page
UNITED STATES v. EICHMAN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 28 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_89_1433/>.
UNITED STATES v. EICHMAN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_89_1433/ (last visited August 28, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. EICHMAN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 28, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1989/1989_89_1433/.