FC: Supreme Court upholds right to anonymous speech, moreorless

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Tue Jun 18 2002 - 07:26:48 PDT

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    Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 14:59:45 -0400
    From: "Paul Levy" <PLEVYat_private>
    To: <declanat_private>
    Subject: Right to Anonymous and unlicensed speech prevails in
    	Watchtower case
    Wanted to be sure you knew that the Supreme Court has upheld the complaint 
    of the Jehovah's Witnesses against an Ohio municipal ordinance that 
    required persons who want to go canvassing door-to-door to register with 
    the mayor and then refrain from going to the doors of any persons who have 
    not expressed their willingness to receive such communications.  A very 
    good majority opinion by Justice Stevens rejects the proposition that 
    acquisition of a permit can be made the precondition for engaging in 
    door-to-door speech, for several reasons - - it trenches on the right to 
    speak anonymously (that is to say, one is not anonymous from the person 
    with whom one speaks person-to-person, but one IS anonymous from the 
    authorities), it prevents spontaneous speech, and it is likely to 
    discourage speech by persons who object in principle to a rule requiring 
    registration.  And, the attempt to justify the ordinance as a way to 
    prevent criminal conduct by persons who approach their victims in the guise 
    of door-to-door canvassers was rejected as baseless.
    Because the Court was careful to distinguish commercial from non-commercial 
    speech, the decision may not impede legislation against UCBE, but attempts 
    to require the identification of non-commercial speakers will face 
    significant hurdles in light of this decision.
    The decision is available on the Cornell University web site at 
    Paul Alan Levy
    Public Citizen Litigation Group
    1600 - 20th Street, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20009
    (202) 588-1000
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