Police Dept. of City of Chicago v. Mosley,
408 U.S. 92 (1972)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Police Dept. of City of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972)

Police Department of the City of Chicago v. Mosley

No. 70-87

Argued January 19, 1972

Decided June 26, 1972

408 U.S. 92


City ordinance prohibiting all picketing within 150 feet of a school, except peaceful picketing of any school involved in a labor dispute, found by the Court of Appeals to be unconstitutional because overbroad, held violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since it makes an impermissible distinction between peaceful labor picketing and other peaceful picketing. Pp. 408 U. S. 94-102.

432 F.2d 1256, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 408 U. S. 102. BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., concurred in the result.

Primary Holding

The First Amendment prevents the government from limiting speech based on message, ideas, subject matter, or content.


Earl Mosley, a federal postal employee, demonstrated peacefully on the sidewalk next to Jones Commercial High School in Chicago for seven months. Later, the city issued an ordinance that amended its long-standing rule against picketing next to a school. The new ordinance created an exception for peaceful labor picketing, similar to Mosley's behavior. He argued that this ordinance violated the First Amendment because it was content-based.



  • Thurgood Marshall (Author)
  • Warren Earl Burger
  • William Orville Douglas
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.

Picketing may not be permitted or prohibited based only on its subject matter. Time, place, and manner restrictions are the only permissible steps that a government can take to regulate speech in a public forum.


  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)


  • Harry Andrew Blackmun (Author)
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist

Case Commentary

Ordinances may be constitutional if they are designed in terms of time, place, and manner, but this ordinance was based on content, which is never permissible. Even public safety would not permit this type of rule, but in this instance there was not even a significant, justifiable concern for public safety based on the defendant's conduct.

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