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U.S. Supreme Court

Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, 382 U.S. 87 (1965)

Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham

No. 5

Argued October 11, 1965

Decided November 15, 1965

382 U.S. 87


Petitioner and a group of companions were standing near a street intersection on a Birmingham, Alabama, sidewalk which a policeman thrice requested them to clear for pedestrian passage. After the third request, all but petitioner, who had been questioning the policeman about his order, had begun to walk away, and the policeman arrested petitioner. Petitioner was tried before a court, without a jury, which, without any factfindings or opinion, convicted him of violating two ordinances, §§ 1142 and 1231, of Birmingham's city code. The Alabama Court of Appeals affirmed. Because of their breadth if read literally, these ordinances present grave constitutional problems. In other decisions subsequent to petitioner's conviction, § 1142 was construed by the Alabama Court of Appeals as applicable only to standing, loitering or walking on a street or sidewalk so as to obstruct free passage, and refusing to obey an officer's request to move on, and § 1231 was confined to the enforcement of the orders of a traffic officer while directing vehicular traffic.


1. The conviction under §1142 must be set aside in view of the possibility that it was based upon an unconstitutional construction of the ordinance. Pp. 382 U. S. 90-92.

2. Since petitioner, when directed to move on, was a pedestrian not around a vehicle, and the arresting policeman was not directing traffic, the conviction under § 1231 must fall for lack of any evidence to support the alleged violation. Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U. S. 199, followed. Pp. 382 U. S. 93-95.

42 Ala.App. 296, 161 So.2d 796, reversed and remanded. chanrobles.com-red

Page 382 U. S. 88


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