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United States v. O'Brien

Significance, Draft Card Burning


United States


David Paul O'Brien

Petitioner's Claim

That a federal law prohibiting the destruction of draft cards is not a violation of the First Amendment's free speech guarantees.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Erwin N. Griswold, U.S. Solicitor General

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Marvin M. Karpatkin

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., Abe Fortas, John Marshall Harlan II, Potter Stewart, Earl Warren (writing for the Court), Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

William O. Douglas (Thurgood Marshall did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

27 May 1968


The Supreme Court upheld the federal statute and O'Brien's conviction.

Further Readings

  • Bosmajian, Haig A., comp. Dissent: Symbolic Behavior and Rhetorical Strategies. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1972.
  • Bracken, Harry M. Freedom of Speech: Words Are Not Deeds. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994.
  • Greenawalt, Kent, Fighting Words: Individuals, Communities, and Liberties of Speech. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972