Pennekamp et al. v. State of Florida
Decided on June 3. 1946; 328 US 331


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Freedom of expression

B. Legal Question Presented:

Did the editorials, published by Petitioners, constitute a threat of clear and present danger to the impartiality and good order of the courts or were they protected by the principles of the First Amendment?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Miami Herald printed two editorials that were critical of the administration of cases pending before a trial court in Dade County, Florida. The trial court issued a contempt citation for the editorials and the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed.

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable 
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Messrs. Elisha Hanson, of Washington, DC, and Robert R. Milam, of Jacksonville, Fla., for petitioners. Messrs. J. Tom Watson, of Tallahassee, Fla., Giles J. Patterson, of Jacksonville, Fla., and James M. Carson, of Miami, for respondent.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Free discussion of the problems of society is a cardinal principle of Americanism - a principle which all are zealous to preserve... [Nevertheless] courts must have power to protect the interests of prisoners and litigants before them from unseemly efforts to pervert judicial action...

While a disclaimer of intention does not purge a contempt, we may at this point call attention to the sworn answer of petitioners that their purpose was not to influence the court... For circumstances to create a clear and present danger to judicial administration, a solidity of evidence should be required which it would be difficult to find in this record.

The comments... concerned the attitude of the judges toward those who were charged with crime, not comments on evidence or rulings during a jury trial... We are not willing to say under the circumstances of this case that these editorials are a clear and present danger to the fair administration of justice in Florida."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida.

Justice Vote: 8 Pro vs. 0 Con

  • Reed, S. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Took no part in the decision
  • V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

    The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida; the Supreme Court reversed in a 8-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.