Forsyth County v. The Movement case brief summary, 1992
a) Forsyth County had a deep rooted history of racial cleansing. Almost 99% of the population in 1987 was white. To address this problem, Hosea Williams planned a march. The march was poorly attended by supporters, but the counter-protesters numbered almost 400 and the march was shot down. In retaliation, one of the largest demonstrations in the South since the 60s took place weeks later with more than 20,000 demonstrators and 1,000 counterdemonstrators. The event cost more than $670,000 in police protection. Forsyth County then passed an ordinance which allowed the county administrator could charge an additional fee to anyone seeking a permit for such an event to cover expected related to the maintenance of public order. The Movement applied for a permit, was charged an additional $100, and brought this suit, charging that the ordinance was unconstitutional under the 1st and 14th Amendments. The Court held that the ordinance was indeed a violation of free speech, in that it gave the administrator “unbridled discretion” to base the cost on the content of the event and speeches.
b) Heavy involvement of “civil societies”
(1) The political body of a state or nation; the body politic; An association or company of persons (usually unincorporated) united by mutual consent, to deliberate, determine, and act jointly for a common purpose
(2) Greatest counterweight to regulatory state
c) The regulation essentially takes away the power to speak one’s mind, speakers are forced to internalize the extra costs of their opposition
d) Rules must have a certain amount of definiteness
e) Why does it matter?
(1) Too much discretion to government official (this town is a prime candidate for discrimination)
(2) Injustice of internalizing opposition’s costs
f) The Rule of Law à the law will be applied equally regardless of the party that’s before the court
(1) Principle of due process