Cohen v. California

(Redirected from 403 U.S. 15)

Cohen v. California  (1971) 

Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with freedom of speech. The Court overturned a disturbing the peace conviction of a man wearing a jacket decorated with profanity.

Court Documents
Dissenting Opinion

Supreme Court of the United States

403 U.S. 15

Cohen  v.  California

Appeal from the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District

No. 299  Argued: February 22, 1971 --- Decided: June 7, 1971

Appellant was convicted of violating that part of Cal. Penal Code § 415 which prohibits "maliciously and willfully disturb(ing) the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or conduct," for wearing a jacket bearing the words "Fuck the Draft" in a corridor of the Los Angeles Courthouse. The Court of Appeal held that "offensive conduct" means "behavior which has a tendency to provoke others to acts of violence or to in turn disturb the peace," and affirmed the conviction.

Held: Absent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions, the State may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, make the simple public display of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense. Pp. 22-26.

1 Cal.App.3d 94, 81 Cal.Rptr. 503, reversed.

Melville B. Nimmer, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellant.

Michael T. Sauer, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellee.

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).