Texas V Johnson

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Submitted By susanlittle76
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Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)
Parties: Respondent Johnson, Petitioner Texas.
Facts: Respondent participated in a demonstration at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas in 1984. At one point during the demonstration, a fellow protestor handed Respondent an American flag and he set it on fire.
Procedural History: After trial Respondent was convicted, sentenced to a year in prison and fined $2000. Respondent appealed his conviction, but lost in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas. He then took his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Respondent’s conviction was overturned; the court maintained that Respondent could not be punished for exercising a right to free speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
Issue(s): Is burning a flag an act of protected free speech?
Rules: First Amendment, free speech; United States v O’Brian, the First Amendment forbids the abridgment only of “speech,” but we have long recognized that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word, “view that an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled ‘speech’ whenever the person engaging in the conduct intends thereby to express and idea.”; Spencer v Washington, we have acknowledged that conduct may be “sufficiently imbued with elements of communication to fall within the scope of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”
Analysis: The court considered the First Amendment and whether its free speech protection extended to include nonverbal speech acts and whether Respondent’s action could be considered expressive conduct, in which case Respondent would be able to invoke his First Amendment rights to protect him. The State of Texas conceded for the purposes of its oral argument in this case that Respondent’s conduct was expressive conduct and this concession seems to us as prudent. In these circumstances, Respondent’s…...

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