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Boos v. Barry

Parts Iii, Iv, And V

The Court was unanimous on Part III, which addressed the petitioners' facial overbreadth challenge to the congregation clause, holding that it gave the police unrestricted authority to suppress demonstrations. While the clause could be considered to violate free speech if taken alone, the Court stated, in line with the display clause and the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the law as applying only to the dispersal of demonstrations directed at an embassy, it was sufficiently narrow not to constitute a violation of free speech. Therefore the Court upheld the lower court's ruling.

In Part IV, the Court addressed the petitioners' claims that their right to equal protection was in question because Section 22-1116 excludes labor picketing from the forms of protest prohibited under Section 22-1115. This, however, was not a valid argument, O'Connor stated, because 22-1116 could not be construed to protect violent labor picketing. Since the display clause had already been found unconstitutional, 22-1116 could only apply to the congregation clause. So, if labor picketers were not violent, their protests were in effect no different from any other kind of protests--all of which would be permitted so long as they constituted no threat to the peace. (Thus the Court's ruling on 22-1115 would make 22-1116 superfluous.) The Court was unanimous on Part IV.

In Part V, O'Connor spoke for the same majority as in Parts I and II-B when she concluded that the display clause was unconstitutional on its face because it was content-based and not sufficiently narrow to be construed as serving a compelling state interest. The Court also concluded in Part V that the congregation clause was not unconstitutional on its face. Thus the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part, and affirmed it in part.

In a dissent joined by Justices Blackmun and White, Chief Justice Rehnquist agreed with Judge Bork's decision in the lower court, upholding the display clause. The three dissenters agreed with the rest of the Court that the congregation clause was not unconstitutional.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Boos v. Barry - Significance, The Split Over Part Ii, Parts Iii, Iv, And V, Foreign Embassies