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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Blackmun

He who writes (the rules) wins the game…

(from the ever-illuminating Language Log)

As we sharpen our pencils, we might recall that it was on this date in 1971 that the U. S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Paul Cohen for disturbing the peace, setting the precedent that “vulgar” writing is protected under the First Amendment.

In April of 1968, Cohen had been arrested in the L.A. County Courthouse for wearing a jacket the back of which read “F–k the Draft”; he was charged with and later convicted of violating section 415 of the California Penal Code, which prohibited “maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person [by] offensive conduct.”

In a 5-4 decision, SCOTUS upheld Cohen’s appeal.  In the majority opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan averred that “one man’s vulgarity  is another’s lyric.”  (For the minority, Justice Harry Blackmun demurred, arguing that Cohen’s “absurd and immature antic” was conduct, not speech– and thus should not be afforded First Amendment protection.)

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All the news, regardless of fit…


More arresting headlines and graphics here.

As we consider what we’re losing as newspapers fail, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970 that Harry A. Blackmun was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  A Nixon appointee, Blackmun authored the Roe vs. Wade decision, for which he became (in)famous.  He was more generally known for consistently casting votes on the side of the individual and individual liberties when pitted against government authority…

Harry Andrew Blackmun

Written by LW

May 12, 2009 at 1:01 am

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