An Analysis of a Case of Teenager Crime

An Analysis of a Case of Teenager Crime

Document details
Category: Legal Studies and Law Essay
Subcategory: Law and Society
Words: 496
Pages: 1

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992). Issue A teenager who placed a burning cross in the fenced back yard of a black family was charged under a City of St. Paul bias-motivated crime ordinance. At trial, the teenager moved for dismissal, alleging the ordinance was violative of the First Amendment. The Trial Court agreed and dismissed the case. On appeal, the MN Supreme Court reversed the lower courts ruling, citing the "fighting words doctrine" from Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), saying that the ordinance was a "narrowly tailored means toward accomplishing the governmental interest in protecting the community." Rule The ordinance was facially invalid under the First Amendment. Analysis In the Opinion of the Court, Justice Scalia looks to the association of the "fighting words doctrine" used by the MN Supreme Court and agrees that the phrase "arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others" is within the scope of the doctrine. However, the remaining words in the ordinance criminalize acts that are based only on "race, color, creed, religion, or gender." Referring to that language, Justice Scalia said the following Displays containing "fighting words" that do not invoke the disfavored subjects would seemingly be usable ad libitum by those arguing in favor of racial, color, etc., tolerance and equality, but not by their opponents. St. Pauls desire to communicate to minority groups that it does not condone the "group hatred" of bias-motivated speech does not justify selectively silencing speech on the basis of its content. Even though the intent of the ordinance was to ensure the "basic human rights" of groups "historically discriminated" against, the ordinance can not stand. Justices White, Blackmun, OConnor, and Stevens concurred with the Opinion of the Court. Conclusion Justice Scalia spent a great deal of time focusing on the importance of the "fighting words doctrine." In their concurring opinion, Justices White, Blackmun, OConnor, and Stevens looked at the ordinance as...

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