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TERMINIELLO V. CHICAGO, 337 U. S. 1 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949)

Terminiello v. Chicago

No. 272

Argued February 1, 1949

Decided May 16, 1949

337 U.S. 1


In a meeting which attracted considerable public attention, petitioner addressed a large audience in an auditorium outside of which was an angry and turbulent crowd protesting against the meeting. He condemned the conduct of the crowd outside and vigorously criticized various political and racial groups. Notwithstanding efforts of a cordon of police to maintain order, there were several disturbances in the crowd. Petitioner was charged with violation of an ordinance forbidding any "breach of the peace," and the trial court instructed the jury that any misbehavior which "stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance" violates the ordinance. Petitioner did not except to that instruction, but he did maintain at all times that, as applied to his conduct, the ordinance violated his right of free speech under the Federal Constitution. He was convicted on a general verdict, and his conviction was affirmed by an intermediate appellate court and by the Supreme Court of the State.


1. As construed by the trial court and applied to petitioner, the ordinance violates the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 337 U. S. 4-5.

2. It is immaterial that petitioner took no exception to the instruction, and that, throughout the appellate proceedings, the state courts assumed that the only conduct punishable and punished under the ordinance was conduct constituting "fighting words," chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 337 U. S. 2

since the verdict was a general one, and it cannot be said that petitioner's conviction was not based upon the instruction quoted above. Stromberg v. California, 283 U. S. 359. Pp. 337 U. S. 5-6.

400 Ill. 23, 79 N.E.2d 39, reversed.

Petitioner was convicted in a state court of violating a city ordinance forbidding any breach of the peace. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. 332 Ill.App. 17, 74 N.E.2d 45. The Supreme Court of Illinois affirmed. 400 Ill. 23, 79 N.E.2d 39. This Court granted certiorari. 335 U.S. 890. Reversed, p. 337 U. S. 6.

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