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9 N.Y.U. L. Q. Rev. 64 (1931-1932)
The 1931 Personal Liberties Cases

handle is hein.journals/nylr9 and id is 76 raw text is: CURRENT COMMEN7T
NOTEWORThY among the decisions of the Supreme Court during
the October, 1930, Term-were the x93i Personal Liberties Cases. The
first of these, Stromberg v. California,1 which was concerned with the
right of free speech, attracted far less popular attention than the sec-
ond, Near v. Minnesota,2 which, involving as it did the correlative right
to a free press, has been played up considerably in the newspapers.
Both, however, are equally important as showing the interpretation
the Court, as presently constituted at any rate, places upon the word
liberty in invalidating state legislation depriving its citizens of
those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the
base of all our civil and political institutions.
These are the first cases in which the Court has held invalid under
the Fourteenth Amendment.state enactments as depriving a person of
the right freely to speak or publish his sentiments concerning the gov-
ernment and its officers. Though the Court had thrice before held it
had the power to do so, it had not found it necessary to exercise this
power. Jurisdiction to review such cases was first announced in Gillow
v. New Yorks and affirmed in Whitney v. California,4 but in both those
cases, involving the criminal anarchy and syndicalism statutes of
those respective states, the legislation and convictions thereunder were
upheld against the attacks raised as to their repugnancy to the due
process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In Fiske v. Kansas5 it is true the conviction was set aside, but this
was upon the ground that the syndicalism act had been applied ar-
bitrarily and unreasonably to sustain the conviction of the defendant
[who was charged with having induced persons to join a branch of the
I. W. W.], without any charge or evidence that the organization in
which he secured members advocated any crime, violence or other un-
lawful acts or methods as a means of effecting industrial or political
changes or revolution, thus unwarrantably infringing the liberty of
the defendant in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Since 1927 these were the first cases involving the question to come
GEORGE FOSMER, JR., is editor of the FmUciARY LAw CHRomcLE and formerly
was managing editor of the NEw Yox Umwvsiny LAW QUARTERLY REvIEw.
1283 U. S. 359, 51 Sup. Ct. 532 (May 18, 1931).
2283 U. S. 697, 51 Sup. Ct. 625 (June 1, 1931).
3268 U. S. 652, 45 Sup. Ct. 625 (1925).
4274 U. S. 357, 47 Sup. Ct. 641 (1927).
5274 U. S. 380, 47 Sup. Ct. 655 (1927).

Imaged with the Permission of N.Y.U. Law Review

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