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Ward v. Rock Against Racism

Rock And A Loud Place, A Sound Lesson


Benjamin R. Ward, New York City Police Commissioner


Rock Against Racism

Petitioner's Claim

U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a city guideline regulating sound volume as unconstitutional was in error.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Leonard J. Koerner

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

William M. Kunstler

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Anthony M. Kennedy (writing for the Court), Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, John Paul Stevens


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

22 June 1989


In favor of appellant Ward, reversing the appeal court decision.


Prompted by lawsuits over the volume of rock concerts, the Court found itself weighing the legality of local regulation versus the right to free speech.

Related Cases

  • United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104 (1972).
  • Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education, 476 U.S. 267 (1986).
  • Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312 (1988).
  • Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474 (1988).

Further Readings

  • Greenhouse, Linda. "Supreme Court Accord: Rock Music Is Loud."New York Times, 28 February 1989 p. A1.
  • Kunstler, William M. My Life As A Radical Lawyer. New York: Birch Lane, 1994.
  • Pareles, Jon. "Second-Guessing the First Amendment." New York Times, 12 March 1989, Section II 28.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994