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Boos v. Barry

Significance, The Split Over Part Ii, Parts Iii, Iv, And V, Foreign Embassies


Michael Boos, Bridget M. Brooker, J. Michael Waller, Father R. David Finzer


Marian Barry, Mayor of Washington, D.C., and other officials of the District of Columbia

Petitioners' Claim

That Section 22-1115 of the District of Columbia Code, which forbade the display of any sign within 500 feet of a foreign embassy if that sign brings the foreign government into "public odium" or "public disrepute," and also prohibited congregation of three or more persons within 500 feet of a foreign embassy, was in violation of the First Amendment's protection of free speech.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioners

Raymond D. Battocchi

Chief Lawyer for Respondents

Edward E. Schwab

Justices for the Court

William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O'Connor (writing for the Court), Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting

Harry A. Blackmun, William H. Rehnquist, Byron R. White (Anthony M. Kennedy did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

22 March 1988


The decision of the lower court was affirmed in part and reversed in part, the finding being that the display clause of Section 22-1115 was in violation of the First Amendment, but the congregation clause was not.

A Five-Part Decision

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion for the Court, a complex five-part decision over the second part of which the Court was split. In Part I, she stated that the Court reversed the court of appeals with regard to the display clause, but affirmed it in the area of the congregation clause. In this she was joined by Justices Brennan, Marshall, Stevens, and Scalia.

Related Cases

  • Frend v. United States, 69 App. D.C. 281,100 (1938).
  • Renton v. Playtime Theaters, 475 U.S. 41 (1986).
  • Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988).


Jentleson, Bruce W. and Thomas G. Paterson, eds. Encyclopedia of U.S. Foreign Relations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Further Readings

  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988