JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this case we must determine whether 40 U. S. C. § 13k, which prohibits, among other things, the "display [of] any flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public
In May 1978 appellee Thaddeus Zywicki, standing on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court building, distributed leaflets to passerby. The leaflets were reprints of a letter to the editor of the Washington Post from a United States Senator concerning the removal of unfit judges from the bench. A Supreme Court police officer approached Zywicki and told him, accurately, that Title 40 of the United States Code prohibited the distribution of leaflets on the Supreme Court grounds, which includes the sidewalk. Zywicki left.
In January 1980 Zywicki again visited the sidewalk in front of the Court to distribute pamphlets containing information about forthcoming meetings and events concerning "the oppressed peoples of Central America." Zywicki again was approached by a Court police officer and was informed that the distribution of leaflets on the Court grounds was prohibited by law. The officer indicated that Zywicki would be arrested if the leafletting continued. Zywicki left.
Zywicki reappeared in February 1980 on the sidewalk in front of the Court and distributed handbills concerning oppression in Guatemala. Zywicki had consulted with an attorney concerning the legality of his activities and had been informed that the Superior Court for the District of Columbia had construed the statute that prohibited leafletting, 40 U. S. C. § 13k, to prohibit only conduct done with the specific intent to influence, impede, or obstruct the administration of
Around noon on March 17, 1980, appellee Mary Grace entered upon the sidewalk in front of the Court and began to display a four foot by two and a half foot sign on which was inscribed the verbatim text of the First Amendment. A Court police officer approached Grace and informed her that she would have to go across the street if she wished to display the sign. Grace was informed that Title 40 of the United States Code prohibited her conduct and that if she did not cease she would be arrested. Grace left the grounds.
On May 13, 1980, Zywicki and Grace filed the present suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. They sought an injunction against continued enforcement of 40 U. S. C. § 13k and a declaratory judgment that the statute was unconstitutional on its face. On August 7, 1980, the District Court dismissed the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
The Court of Appeals determined that the District Court's dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies was erroneous and went on to strike down § 13k on its face as an unconstitutional restriction on First Amendment rights in a
The Government appealed from the Court of Appeals' judgment. We noted probable jurisdiction, 457 U.S. 1131 (1982).
Section 13k prohibits two distinct activities: it is unlawful either "to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Supreme Court Building or grounds," or "to display therein any flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice any party, organization, or movement." Each appellee appeared individually on the public sidewalks to engage in expressive activity, and it goes without saying that the threat of arrest to which each appellee was subjected was for violating the prohibition against the display of a "banner or device." Accordingly, our review is limited to the latter portion of the statute.
Our normal course is first to "ascertain whether a construction of the statute is fairly possible by which the [constitutional]
The statutory ban is on the display of a "flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice any party, organization, or movement." 40 U. S. C. § 13k. It is undisputed that Grace's picket sign containing the text of the First Amendment falls within the description of a "flag, banner, or device." Although it is less obvious, it is equally uncontested that Zywicki's leaflets fall within the proscription as well.
We also accept the Government's contention, not contested by appellees, that almost any sign or leaflet carrying a communication, including Grace's picket sign and Zywicki's leaflets, would be "designed or adapted to bring into public notice [a] party, organization or movement." Such a construction brings some certainty to the reach of the statute and hence avoids what might be other challenges to its validity.
The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . ."
It is also true that "public places" historically associated with the free exercise of expressive activities, such as streets, sidewalks, and parks, are considered, without more, to be "public forums." See Perry Education Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983); Carey v. Brown, supra, at 460; Hudgens v. NLRB, 424 U.S. 507, 515 (1976); Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569, 574 (1941); Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496, 515 (1939). In such places, the government's ability to permissibly restrict expressive conduct is very limited: the government may enforce reasonable time, place, and manner regulations as long as the restrictions "are content-neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication." Perry Education Assn., supra, at 45. See, e. g., Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., 452 U.S. 640, 647, 654 (1981); Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 115 (1972); Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559 (1965) (Cox II). Additional restrictions such as an absolute prohibition on a particular type of expression will be upheld only if narrowly drawn to accomplish a compelling governmental interest. See, e. g., Perry Education Assn., supra, at 46; Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981).
Publicly owned or operated property does not become a "public forum" simply because members of the public are permitted to come and go at will. See Greer v. Spock, 424 U.S. 828, 836 (1976). Although whether the property has been "generally opened to the public" is a factor to consider in determining whether the government has opened its property to the use of the people for communicative purposes, it is not determinative of the question. We have regularly rejected the assertion that people who wish "to propagandize protests or views have a constitutional right to do so whenever
It is argued that the Supreme Court building and grounds fit neatly within the description of nonpublic forum property. Although the property is publicly owned, it has not been traditionally held open for the use of the public for expressive activities. As Greer v. Spock, supra, teaches, the property is not transformed into "public forum" property merely because the public is permitted to freely enter and leave the grounds at practically all times and the public is admitted to the building during specified hours.
The prohibitions imposed by § 13k technically cover the entire grounds of the Supreme Court as defined in 40 U. S. C. § 13p.
The Government submits that § 13k qualifies as a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction which may be imposed to restrict communicative activities on public forum property such as sidewalks. The argument is that the inquiry should not be confined to the Supreme Court grounds but should focus on "the vicinity of the Supreme Court" or "the public places of Washington, D. C." Brief for Appellants 16, n. 5. Viewed in this light, the Government contends that there are sufficient alternative areas within the relevant forum, such as the streets around the Court or the sidewalks across those streets to permit § 13k to be considered a reasonable "place" restriction having only a minimal
Section 13k was part of an 11-section statute, enacted in 1949, "[r]elating to the policing of the building and grounds of the Supreme Court of the United States." 63 Stat. 616, 40 U. S. C. §§ 13f-13p. The occasion for its passage was the termination of the practice by District of Columbia authorities of appointing Supreme Court guards as special policemen for the District. This action left the Supreme Court police force without authority to make arrests and enforce the law in the building and on the grounds of the Court. The Act, which was soon forthcoming, was modeled on the legislation relating to the Capitol grounds, 60 Stat. 718, 40 U. S. C. §§ 193a-193m. It authorizes the appointment by the Marshal of special officers "for duty in connection with the policing of the Supreme Court Building and grounds and adjacent streets." Sections 2-6 of the Act prohibit certain kinds of
Based on its provisions and legislative history, it is fair to say that the purpose of the Act was to provide for the protection of the building and grounds and of the persons and property therein, as well as the maintenance of proper order and decorum. Section 6, 40 U. S. C. § 13k, was one of the provisions apparently designed for these purposes. At least, no special reason was stated for its enactment.
We do not denigrate the necessity to protect persons and property or to maintain proper order and decorum within the Supreme Court grounds, but we do question whether a total ban on carrying a flag, banner, or device on the public sidewalks substantially serves these purposes. There is no suggestion, for example, that appellees' activities in any way obstructed the sidewalks or access to the building, threatened injury to any person or property, or in any way interfered with the orderly administration of the building or other parts of the grounds. As we have said, the building's perimeter sidewalks are indistinguishable from other public sidewalks in the city that are normally open to the conduct that is at issue here and that § 13k forbids. A total ban on that conduct is no more necessary for the maintenance of peace and tranquility on the public sidewalks surrounding the building than on any other sidewalks in the city. Accordingly, § 13k cannot be justified on this basis.
The United States offers another justification for § 13k that deserves our attention. It is said that the federal courts represent an independent branch of the Government and that
As was the case with the maintenance of law and order on the Court grounds, we do not discount the importance of this proffered purpose for § 13k. But, again, we are unconvinced that the prohibitions of § 13k that are at issue here sufficiently serve that purpose to sustain its validity insofar as the public sidewalks on the perimeter of the grounds are concerned. Those sidewalks are used by the public like other public sidewalks. There is nothing to indicate to the public that these sidewalks are part of the Supreme Court grounds or are in any way different from other public sidewalks in the city. We seriously doubt that the public would draw a different inference from a lone picketer carrying a sign on the sidewalks around the building than it would from a similar picket on the sidewalks across the street.
We thus perceive insufficient justification for § 13k's prohibition of carrying signs, banners, or devices on the public sidewalks surrounding the building. We hold that under the First Amendment the section is unconstitutional as applied to those sidewalks. Of course, this is not to say that those sidewalks, like other sidewalks, are not subject to reasonable
The judgment below is accordingly affirmed to the extent indicated by this opinion and is otherwise vacated.
JUSTICE MARSHALL, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I would hold 40 U. S. C. § 13k unconstitutional on its face. The statute in no way distinguishes the sidewalks from the rest of the premises, and excising the sidewalks from its purview does not bring it into conformity with the First Amendment. Visitors to this Court do not lose their First Amendment rights at the edge of the sidewalks any more than "students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). Since the continuing existence of the statute will inevitably have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, there is no virtue in deciding its constitutionality on a piecemeal basis.
When a citizen is "in a place where [he] has every right to be," Brown v. Louisiana, 383 U.S. 131, 142 (1966) (opinion of Fortas, J., joined by Warren, C. J., and Douglas, J.), he cannot be denied the opportunity to express his views simply because the Government has not chosen to designate the area as a forum for public discussion. While the right to conduct expressive activities in such areas as streets, parks, and sidewalks is reinforced by their traditional use for purposes of assembly, Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496, 515 (1939) (opinion of Roberts, J., joined by Black, J.), that right ultimately rests on the principle that "one who is rightfully on a street which the state has left open to the public carries with him there as elsewhere the constitutional right to express his views in an orderly fashion." Jamison v. Texas, 318 U.S. 413, 416 (1943) (emphasis added). Every citizen lawfully present in a
I see no reason why the premises of this Court should be exempt from this basic principle. It would be ironic indeed if an exception to the Constitution were to be recognized for the very institution that has the chief responsibility for protecting constitutional rights. I would apply to the premises of this Court the same principle that this Court has applied to other public places.
Viewed in this light, 40 U. S. C. § 13k is plainly unconstitutional on its face. The statute is not a reasonable regulation
Nor does the statute merely forbid conduct that is incompatible with the primary activity being carried out in this Court. Cf. Grayned v. City of Rockford, supra, at 116; Greer v. Spock, 424 U.S. 828, 843 (1976) (POWELL, J., concurring). In contrast to 18 U. S. C. § 1507 (1976 ed., Supp. V) and the statute upheld in Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559 (1965),
I would therefore hold the prohibition unconstitutional on its face.
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
On three occasions Zywicki distributed leaflets and handbills. I would not construe that activity as the "display" of any "flag, banner, or device." A typical passerby would not have learned Zywicki's message from the "display" of his literature. Only after the material left Zywicki's possession would his message have become intelligible.
On one occasion Grace carried a sign on which the text of the First Amendment was written. I agree that this was the "display" of a "device," but I do not agree that her device was "designed or adapted to bring into public notice any party, organization, or movement." A typical passerby could not, merely by observing her sign, confidently link her with any specific party, organization, or "movement" as that term was understood when this statute was drafted.
I see no reason to stretch the language of the statute to encompass the activities of either Zywicki or Grace. As a matter of statutory interpretation, we should not infer that
Because neither of the appellees has violated the statute, I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals to the extent that it requires that appellants be restrained from causing appellees' arrest for engaging in the activities disclosed by this record.
"It shall be unlawful to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Supreme Court Building or grounds, or to display therein any flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice any party, organization, or movement." 63 Stat. 617.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
"The Supreme Court Building at 1 First Street, N. E., Washington, D. C. 20543, is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9 a. m. to 4:30 p. m., except on Federal holidays. The building is closed at all other times, although persons having legitimate business may be admitted at other times when so authorized by responsible officials."
"For the purposes of sections 13f to 13p of this title the Supreme Court grounds shall be held to extend to the line of the face of the east curb of First Street Northeast, between Maryland Avenue Northeast and East Capitol Street; to the line of the face of the south curb of Maryland Avenue Northeast, between First Street Northeast and Second Street Northeast; to the line of the face of the west curb of Second Street Northeast, between Maryland Avenue Northeast and East Capitol Street; and to the line of the face of the north curb of East Capitol Street between First Street Northeast and Second Street Northeast."
"Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, . . . or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building . . . shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both."
The Louisiana statute upheld on its face in Cox provided in pertinent part:
"Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the State of Louisiana . . . shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year, or both." La. Rev. Stat. § 14:401 (Supp. 1962).
Indeed, to protect third parties not before the Court, we have held that even "a litigant whose own activities are unprotected may nevertheless challenge a statute by showing that it substantially abridges the First Amendment rights of other parties not before the court." Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620, 634 (1980) (emphasis added). E. g., Erznoznik v. City of Jacksonville, 422 U.S. 205 (1975); Lewis v. City of New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130 (1974); Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601 (1973); Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518 (1972); Kunz v. New York, 340 U.S. 290 (1951); NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 432-433 (1963). If such a showing is made, the statute will be struck down on its face.
An overbroad statute should likewise be struck down on its face where, as here, it is challenged by litigants whose own activities are constitutionally protected.