MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented here is whether the provisions of a Los Angeles City ordinance restricting the distribution of handbills "abridge the freedom of speech and of the press secured against state invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution."
The petitioner was arrested and tried in a Los Angeles Municipal Court for violating this ordinance. It was stipulated that the petitioner had distributed handbills in Los Angeles, and two of them were presented in evidence. Each had printed on it the following:
The handbills urged readers to help the organization carry on a boycott against certain merchants and businessmen, whose names were given, on the ground that, as one set of handbills said, they carried products of "manufacturers who will not offer equal employment opportunities to Negroes. Mexicans, and Orientals." There also appeared a blank, which, if signed, would request enrollment of the signer as a "member of National Consumers Mobilization," and which was preceded by a statement that "I believe that every man should have an equal opportunity for employment no matter what his race, religion, or place of birth."
The Municipal Court held that the information printed on the handbills did not meet the requirements of the ordinance, found the petitioner guilty as charged, and fined him $10. The Appellate Department of the Superior
In Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, we held void on its face an ordinance that comprehensively forbade any distribution of literature at any time or place in Griffin, Georgia, without a license. Pamphlets and leaflets, it was pointed out, "have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty"
The broad ordinance now before us, barring distribution of "any hand-bill in any place under any circumstances,"
There can be no doubt that such an identification requirement would tend to restrict freedom to distribute information and thereby freedom of expression. "Liberty of circulating is as essential to that freedom as liberty of publishing; indeed, without the circulation, the publication would be of little value." Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U. S., at 452.
Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all. The obnoxious press licensing law of England, which was also enforced on the Colonies was due in part to the knowledge that exposure of the names of printers, writers and distributors would lessen the circulation of literature critical of the government. The old seditious libel cases in England show the lengths to which government had to go to find out who was responsible for books that were obnoxious
We have recently had occasion to hold in two cases that there are times and circumstances when States may not compel members of groups engaged in the dissemination of ideas to be publicly identified. Bates v. Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516; N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462. The reason for those holdings was that identification and fear of reprisal might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance. This broad Los Angeles ordinance is subject to the same infirmity. We hold that it, like the Griffin, Georgia, ordinance, is void on its face.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, concurring.
In judging the validity of municipal action affecting rights of speech or association protected against invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment, I do not believe that we can escape, as Mr. Justice Roberts said in Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 161, "the delicate and difficult task" of weighing "the circumstances" and appraising "the substantiality of the reasons advanced in support of the regulation of the free enjoyment of" speech. More recently we have said that state action impinging on free speech and association will not be sustained unless the governmental interest asserted to support such impingement is compelling. See N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 463, 464; Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 265 (concurring opinion); see also Bates v. Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516.
Here the State says that this ordinance is aimed at the prevention of "fraud, deceit, false advertising, negligent use of words, obscenity, and libel," in that it will aid in the detection of those responsible for spreading material of that character. But the ordinance is not so limited, and I think it will not do for the State simply to say that the circulation of all anonymous handbills must be suppressed in order to identify the distributors of those that may be of an obnoxious character. In the absence of a more substantial showing as to Los Angeles' actual experience with the distribution of obnoxious handbills,
On these grounds I concur in the judgment of the Court.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, whom MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER and MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER join, dissenting.
To me, Los Angeles' ordinance cannot be read as being void on its face. Certainly a fair reading of it does not permit a conclusion that it prohibits the distribution of handbills "of any kind at any time, at any place, and in any manner," Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, 451 (1938), as the Court seems to conclude. In Griffin, the ordinance completely prohibited the unlicensed distribution of any handbills. As I read it, the ordinance here merely prohibits the distribution of a handbill which does not carry the identification of the name of the person who "printed, wrote, compiled . . . manufactured [or] . . . caused" the distribution of it. There could well be a compelling reason for such a requirement. The Court implies as much when it observes that Los Angeles has not "referred
Therefore, before passing upon the validity of the ordinance, I would weigh the interests of the public in its enforcement against the claimed right of Talley. The record is barren of any claim, much less proof, that he will suffer any injury whatever by identifying the handbill with his name. Unlike N. A. A. C. P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), which is relied upon, there is neither allegation nor proof that Talley or any group sponsoring him would suffer "economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion [or] other manifestations of public hostility." Id., at 462. Talley makes no showing whatever to support his contention that a restraint upon his freedom of speech will result from the enforcement of the ordinance. The existence of such a restraint is necessary before we can strike the ordinance down.
But even if the State had this burden, which it does not, the substantiality of Los Angeles' interest in the enforcement of the ordinance sustains its validity. Its chief law enforcement officer says that the enforcement of the ordinance prevents "fraud, deceit, false advertising, negligent use of words, obscenity, and libel," and, as we have said, that such was its purpose. In the absence of
I stand second to none in supporting Talley's right of free speech—but not his freedom of anonymity. The Constitution says nothing about freedom of anonymous speech. In fact, this Court has approved laws requiring no less than Los Angeles' ordinance. I submit that they control this case and require its approval under the attack made here. First, Lewis Publishing Co. v. Morgan, 229 U.S. 288 (1913), upheld an Act of Congress requiring any newspaper using the second-class mails to publish the names of its editor, publisher, owner, and stockholders. 39 U. S. C. § 233. Second, in the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, 2 U. S. C. § 267, Congress requires those engaged in lobbying to divulge their identities and give "a modicum of information" to Congress. United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 625 (1954). Third, the several States have corrupt practices acts outlawing, inter alia, the distribution of anonymous publications with reference to political candidates.
No civil right has a greater claim to constitutional protection or calls for more rigorous safeguarding than voting rights. In this area the danger of coercion and reprisals—economic and otherwise—is a matter of common knowledge. Yet these statutes, disallowing anonymity in promoting one's views in election campaigns, have expressed the overwhelming public policy of the Nation. Nevertheless the Court is silent about this impressive authority relevant to the disposition of this case.
All that Los Angeles requires is that one who exercises his right of free speech through writing or distributing handbills identify himself just as does one who speaks from the platform. The ordinance makes for the responsibility in writing that is present in public utterance. When and if the application of such an ordinance in a given case encroaches on First Amendment freedoms, then will be soon enough to strike that application down. But no such restraint has been shown here. After all, the public has some rights against which the enforcement of freedom of speech would be "harsh and arbitrary in itself." Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 88 (1949). We have upheld complete proscription of uninvited door-to-door canvassing as an invasion of privacy. Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951). Is this less restrictive than complete freedom of distribution—regardless of content— of a signed handbill? And commercial handbills may be declared verboten, Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942), regardless of content or identification. Is Talley's anonymous handbill, designed to destroy the business of a commercial establishment, passed out at its very front door, and attacking its then lawful commercial practices, more comportable with First Amendment freedoms? I think not. Before we may expect international responsibility among nations, might not it be well to require individual responsibility at home? Los Angeles' ordinance does no more.
Contrary to petitioner's contention, the ordinance as applied does not arbitrarily deprive him of equal protection
"What is it then, but an odious, unprofitable exertion of a speculative right, and fixing a badge of slavery upon the Americans, without service to their masters?" 2 Letters of Junius (1821) 39.
"We were able to find out that prior to 1931 an effort was made by the local Chamber of Commerce, urging the City Council to do something about these handbills and advertising matters which were false and misleading—had no names of sponsors. They were particularly interested in the fictitious name. They said, `Who are these people that are distributing; who are advertising; doing things of that sort?' The meager record that we were able to find indicates that a request from the Council to the City Attorney as to their legal opinion on this subject [sic]. The City Attorney wrote back and formed the conclusion that distribution of handbills, pamphlets, or other matters, without the name of the fictitious firm or officers would be legal [sic]. Thereafter in the early part of 1932 an ordinance was drafted, and submitted to the City Council, and approved by them, which related to the original subject—unlawful for any person, firm or association to distribute in the city of Los Angeles any advertisement or handbill—or any other matter which does not have the names of the sponsors of such literature."