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Cohen v. California

Significance, Court Upholds First Amendment Protection For Nonverbal Aspects Of Communication


Paul Robert Cohen


The State of California

Appellant's Claim

That wearing a jacket bearing a controversial opinion about the draft in a county courthouse constituted political speech protected by the First Amendment.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Melville B. Nimmer

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Michael T. Sauer

Justices for the Court

William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, John Marshall Harlan II (writing for the Court), Thurgood Marshall, Potter Stewart

Justices Dissenting

Hugo Lafayette Black, Harry A. Blackmun, Warren E. Burger, Byron R. White


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

7 June 1971


The Supreme Court struck down Cohen's conviction for disturbing the peace.

Related Cases

  • Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942).
  • Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229 (1963).
  • Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).

Further Readings

  • Blanchard, Margaret A. Revolutionary Sparks: Freedom of Expression in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Greenawalt, Kent. Fighting Words: Individuals, Communities, and Liberties of Speech. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Schauer, Frederick F. Free Speech: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Additional topics

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