Jurisdictional and Standing Issues in First Amendment Cases
Bender v. Williamsport Area School District (1986) highlighted the
importance of standing for anyone wishing to challenge perceived violations
of the First Amendment.
Bill Johnson’s Restaurants, Inc. v. NLRB (1983) vacated an NLRB decision
halting a libel suit. It implicated First Amendment freedoms of petition
Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc. (1984) overturned the
libel conviction of a magazine. Appeals courts hearing libel cases must
independently review evidence.
Davis v. Federal Election Commission (2008) struck down the “Millionaire’s
Amendment” of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act for violating the First
In Doe v. Gonzales (2005), Justice Ginsburg upheld part of the USA Patriot
Act barring librarians from disclosing that the FBI had requested patron
Doran v. Salem Inn (1975) considered a First Amendment challenge to an
ordinance banning topless dancing in nightclubs. The ruling touched briefly
on freedom of expression.
Doremus v. Board of Education (1952) said a parent and taxpayer who raised
a First Amendment challenge to daily Bible reading in a public school had
In Douglas v. City of Jeannette (1943), the Supreme Court focused on the
jurisdiction of federal courts in First Amendment cases during pending
Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004) avoided addressing
whether the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the
Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America v. WDAY (1959), did
not mention the First Amendment, but involved a libel issue dealing with
right of reply.
Flast v. Cohen (1968) said that taxpayers had standing under the First
Amendment to sue to prevent the use of their taxes to fund religious
Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation (2007) decided that taxpayers
can’t raise a First Amendment challenge to executive branch expenditures on
In Liles v. Oregon (1976), which raised First Amendment obscenity issues,
the Court denied a writ of certiorari. A dissent by Justice Brennan
involved the analysis of obscenity.
Pennsylvania v. Nelson (1956) addresses federal preemption and illustrates
how the Court protected civil liberties such as the First Amendment during
the era of McCarthyism
Perez v. Ledesma (1971), one of a series of cases decided with Younger v.
Harris, arose from district court decisions granting relief against an
In Samuels v. Mackell (1971), the Supreme Court refused to look at the
constitutionality of state anarchy laws. One justice said the First
Amendment does not protect violence.
A federal district judge in 1909 stopped the prosecution of the
Indianapolis Star for allegedly libelous stories about President Theodore
Roosevelt. Roosevelt had sought prosecution in Washington D.C., but the
judge in United States v. Smith said citizens could not be dragged from
distant states to the nation’s capital for prosecution.
Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church
and State (1982) limited suits brought to prevent expenditures that might
violate the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court in 1967 rejected a claim by the W.E.B. Dubois Clubs of
America, the youth arm of the Communist Party in the United States, that
the McCarran Act of 1950 violated the First Amendment as it related to
registration of communist-front organizations.
In Walker v. City of Birmingham (1967), the Court refused to look at
whether a court order against Birmingham civil rights protestors violated
the First Amendment.
In 1978, the Supreme Court limited when federal courts could enjoin state
prosecution involving state laws argued to violate the First Amendment. In
Younger v. Harris, Justice Hugo Black wrote that the judiciary had a role,
but not unlimited power to survey state laws and pass judgement on them.