Friday, November 15, 2013

Ward v. Rock Against Racism case brief

Ward v. Rock Against Racism case brief summary
491 U.S. 781 (1989)

Petitioners appealed from a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversing a judgment of the district court upholding the constitutionality of a city's sound-amplification guideline under the First Amendment.

Respondent's rock concert took place in an amphitheater and stage structure known located in city's park. In close proximity was a grassy open area, which the city designated as a quiet area for passive recreations. Just beyond the park were apartments and residences. The city attempted to regulate the volume of amplified music at the band shell so the performances were satisfactory to the audience without intruding upon those using the grassy area or living in the vicinity. The regulation required performers to use sound-amplification equipment and a sound technician provided by city. Respondent sought damages and a declaratory judgment striking down the guidelines as facially invalid.

The district court denied respondent relief and sustained the noise control measures, but the court of appeals reversed.

  • The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the regulation met the demands of the First Amendment. 
  • The Court concluded that the regulation was valid as a reasonable regulation of the place and manner of expression because it was content neutral and narrowly tailored to serve the city's legitimate public interest in protecting citizens from unwelcome noise.


The Supreme Court reversed the decision because the court of appeals erred in requiring the city to prove that its regulation was the least intrusive means of furthering its legitimate governmental interests and because the ordinance was valid on its face.

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