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Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire


Chaplinsky introduced a two-tiered approach to free speech, in which so-called "fighting words" and certain other categories of speech are placed outside the protection of the First Amendment.

Walter Chaplinsky, a Jehovah's Witness, had attracted a large and unruly crowd as he distributed religious tracts in the streets of Rochester, New Hampshire. Warned by a city marshall that the crowd was becoming riotous, Chaplinsky hurled insults at the officer, calling him a "racketeer" and a "Fascist." Chaplinsky was convicted in municipal court of having violated a state ordinance against the use of abusive language in public. His conviction was affirmed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire - Significance, Court Develops Two-tiered Theory Of The First Amendment, Fighting Words