Fox v. Washington - 236 U.S. 273 (1915)


U.S. Supreme Court

Fox v. Washington, 236 U.S. 273 (1915)

Fox v. Washington

No. 134

Submitted January 19, 1915

Decided February 23, 1915

236 U.S. 273

Syllabus

Where the highest court of the state, in overruling a demurrer, affirmed that the Constitution of the United States guaranteed freedom of speech, but held the statute on which the indictment was based valid in that respect and also that it was not bad for uncertainty, citing cases decided by this Court as authority, this Court may gather that rights under the federal Constitution were relied on apart from the certificate of the state court to that effect, and there is jurisdiction under § 237, Judicial Code, to review the judgment.

The statute of the Washington, Rem. & Bal.Code, § 2564, denouncing the willful printing, circulation, etc., of matter advocating or encouraging the commission of any crime or breach of the peace or which shall tend to encourage or advocate disrespect for law or any court or courts of justice held not to be unconstitutional as the same has been construed by the highest court of that state and applied in the case of one indicted for publishing an article encouraging and inciting that which the jury found was a breach of state laws against indecent exposure.

Statutes should be construed, so far as they fairly may be, in such a way as to avoid doubtful constitutional questions, and this Court presumes that state laws will be so construed by state courts.

If the statute attacked should be construed as going no further than it is necessary to go in order to decide the particular case involved within it, it cannot be condemned for want of definiteness.

Laws of the description of the statute of Washington involved in this action and prohibiting encouragement of crime are not unfamiliar.

This Court has nothing to do with the wisdom of the defendant, the prosecution, or the act. It is concerned only with the question whether the statute and its application infringes the federal Constitution.

71 Wash. 185 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of

Page 236 U. S. 274

a statute of the Washington preventing the willful printing and circulation of written matter having tendency to encourage or advocate disrespect for the law, are stated in the opinion.

Page 236 U. S. 275



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