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McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission

Talley V. California

The Supreme Court had decided in Talley that a Los Angeles city ordinance, barring handbills unless they are printed with the names and addresses of their authors or sponsors, violated the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of speech and press. As stated in the court transcripts, California argued that the ordinance was designed to "identify those responsible for fraud, false advertising and libel." However, there was nothing in the ordinance itself nor in its legislative history to support that claim; the ordinance uniformly banned all anonymous handbills.

Writing for the majority, Justice Black praised the historical role of anonymous publications: "Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all." He went on to note the importance of anonymous pamphlets in early American history, concluding "It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes."

In the MacIntyre case, though, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals ruling, notwithstanding the Supreme Court decision in Talley. The Ohio law, the court claimed, differed from the ordinance in Talley because 3599.09(A) was meant to identify "those who distribute materials containing false statements." The dissent considered identification a significant burden, and feared that the requirement would silence some unpopular groups for fear of retaliation. The Supreme Court's ensuing decision echoed many of this dissent's arguments.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission - Significance, Talley V. California, Regulation Of The Electoral Process, "exacting Scrutiny", . . . Or Perhaps Not