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Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire

Significance, Court Develops Two-tiered Theory Of The First Amendment, Fighting Words


Walter Chaplinsky


State of New Hampshire

Appellant's Claim

That a state statute prohibiting certain types of public speech violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Hayden C. Covington

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Frank R. Kenison

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, James Francis Byrnes, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, Robert H. Jackson, Frank Murphy (writing for the Court), Stanley Forman Reed, Owen Josephus Roberts, Harlan Fiske Stone

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

9 March 1942


Reasoning that the Constitution does not protect some "well defined and narrowly limited" types of speech, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld both the statute and Chaplinsky's conviction under it.

Related Cases

  • Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1963).
  • Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).


Biskupic, Joan and Elder WittGuide to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1997).

Further Readings

  • Greenawalt, Kent. Fighting Words: Individuals, Communities, and Liberties of Speech. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Saunders, Kevin W. Violence as Obscenity: Limiting the Media's First Amendment Protection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.
  • Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. New York: New York University Press, 1994.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953