Friday, November 15, 2013

Schneider v. New Jersey case brief

Schneider v. New Jersey case brief summary
308 U.S. 147 (1939)

Defendants were convicted under municipal ordinances forbidding or regulating the distribution of literature in the streets or other public places. Three of the acts took place in the streets and the fourth was by distribution of circulars by house to house visitations without a permit. By writ of certiorari to the Court of Errors and Appeals of New Jersey, and by appeal, defendants challenged their convictions.

These cases presented the question whether regulations embodied in the municipal ordinances abridged the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and of the press secured against state invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.


  • Concerning the three cases where defendants were convicted for distributing literature in the street, the Court held that the purpose of the ordinances to keep the streets clean and of good appearance was insufficient to justify prohibiting defendants from handing out literature to other persons willing to receive it. 
  • Any burden imposed upon the city authorities in cleaning and caring for the streets as an indirect consequence of such distribution resulted from the constitutional protection of the freedom of speech and press. 
  • Concerning the distribution of materials from house to house without a permit, the ordinance was void. 
  • The ordinance banned unlicensed communication of any views or the advocacy of any cause from door to door and permitted canvassing only subject to the power of a police officer to determine, as a censor, what literature could be distributed and who could distribute it.


The Court reversed defendants' convictions for distributing literature in streets and other public places and remanded the cases.

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