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R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul

Fighting Words, The Lower Court's Rule, The Supreme Court Rules, Further Readings




City of St. Paul, Minneapolis

Petitioner's Claim

That a St. Paul city ordinance banning all public displays of symbols that arouse anger on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender was invalid under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Edward J. Cleary

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Thomas J. Foley

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist (writing for the Court), Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

22 June 1992


Reversed the court of appeals ruling and held that the St. Paul ordinance did in fact violate First Amendment free speech protections.


The unanimous decision in this case clarified the concept of "fighting words" left unprotected under the First Amendment.


The decision in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul cast doubt on a number of state laws and university codes designed to prohibit prejudiced or offensive speech. Subsequent to this case, lawmakers became careful to craft laws that did not contain the content-based classifications struck down as unconstitutional here.

Related Cases

  • Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993).
  • Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43 (1994).
  • Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997).

Additional topics

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