GORMLEY v. DIRECTOR, CONNECTICUT STATE DEPARTMENT OF ADULT
449 U.S. 1023

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U.S. Supreme Court

GORMLEY v. DIRECTOR, CONNECTICUT STATE DEPARTMENT OF ADULT , 449 U.S. 1023 (1980)

449 U.S. 1023

Mary GORMLEY
v.
DIRECTOR, CONNECTICUT STATE DEPARTMENT OF ADULT PROBATION, et al
No. 80-5134

Supreme Court of the United States

December 1, 1980

On Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, dissenting.

Under Connecticut law, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor when "with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, he makes a telephone call, whether or not a conversation ensues, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm." Conn.Gen.Stat. 53a-183(a)(3) (1975 rev.). Petitioner was convicted of violating this statute after she made a telephone call to a woman with whom she had some personal quarrel. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal in the state courts,1 petitioner brought a federal habeas corpus action arguing that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments the statute was unconstitutionally overbroad. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found no constitutional infirmity. The petition for certiorari challenges that judgment.

To be sure, a State has a valid interest in protecting its citizens against unwarranted invasions of privacy. Rowan v. Post Office Department, 397 U.S. 728 (1970). See generally, Note, Give Me a Home Where No Salesmen Phone: Telephone Solicitation and the First Amendment, 7 Hastings Const.L.Q. 129 (1979). This is especially true when unprotected speech, such as obscenity or threats of physical violence, is involved. But it is equally clear that a State may not pursue these interests by unduly infringing on what would

Page 449 U.S. 1023 , 1024

otherwise be protected speech. It is therefore critical to recall that speech may be "annoying" without losing its First Amendment protection 2 and that the Connecticut statute on its face criminalizes any telephone call that annoys and was intended to do so. It is not difficult to imagine various clearly protected telephone communications that would fall within the ban of the Connecticut statute. [Footnote 3] As such it is fairly arguable that the statute is substantially overbroad and hence unconstitutional. Lewis v. New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130 (1974); Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518 (1972).4

Beyond the obvious tension between our prior cases and the judgment below is the difference in opinion among those courts that have considered constitutional challenges to similar state statutes. Contrary to the decision reached by the [449 U.S. 1023 , 1025]


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