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National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie
Decided on June 14, 1977; 432 US 43


The Court ruled that the National Socialist (Nazi) Party could not be prohibited from marching peacefully,
simply because of the content of their message.

 

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:

Should the Illinois Supreme Court have granted a stay pending the appeal on the injunction against Appellants, denying them the right to demonstrate in the village of Skokie?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"On April 29, 1977, the Circuit Court of Cook County entered an injunction against petitioners. The injunction prohibited them from performing any of the following actions within the village of Skokie, Ill.: '[m]arching, walking or parading in the uniform of the National Socialist Party of America; [m]arching, walking or parading or otherwise displaying the swastika on or off their person; [d]istributing pamphlets or displaying any materials which incite or promote hatred against persons of Jewish faith or ancestry or hatred against persons of any faith or ancestry, race or religion.'

The Illinois Appellate Court denied an application for stay pending appeal. Applicants then filed a petition for a stay in the Illinois Supreme Court, together with a request for a direct expedited appeal to that court. The Illinois Supreme Court denied both the stay and leave for an expedited appeal. Applicants then filed an application for a stay with Mr. Justice Stevens, as Circuit Justice, who referred the matter to the Court."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed the order of the Illinois Supreme Court and ordered a stay.

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)
Unavailable Unavailable
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Treating the application as a petition for certiorari from the order of the Illinois Supreme Court, we grant certiorari and reverse the Illinois Supreme Court's denial of a stay. That order is a final judgment for purposes of our jurisdiction, since it involved a right 'separable from, and collateral to' the merits)... It finally determined the merits of petitioners' claim that the outstanding injunction will deprive them of rights protected by the First Amendment during the period of appellate review which, in the normal course, may take a year or more to complete.

If a State seeks to impose a restraint of this kind, it must provide strict procedural safeguards... including immediate appellate review... Absent such review, the State must instead allow a stay. The order of the Illinois Supreme Court constituted a denial of that right."

The US Supreme Court reversed the order of the Illinois supreme Court and remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with its opinion.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro v. 4 Con
Per Curiam decision (no individual authorship of majority opinion)

    • Brennan, W. Pro
    • Marshall, T. Pro
    • Stevens, J. Pro
    • Blackmum, H. Pro
    • Powell, L. Pro
    • White, B. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
    • Rehnquist, W. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
    • Burger, W. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
    • Stewart, P. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)

V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as counsel of record, urged reversal of the order of the Illinois Supreme Court; the Supreme Court reversed in a per curiam decision and in a 5-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.