Lewis v. City of New Orleans,
415 U.S. 130 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lewis v. City of New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130 (1974)

Lewis v. City of New Orleans

No. 72-6156

Argued December 10, 1973

Decided February 20, 1974

415 U.S. 130


On remand from this Court for reconsideration in light of Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U. S. 518, appellant's conviction of violating a New Orleans ordinance making it unlawful "to curse or revile or to use obscene or opprobrious language toward or with reference to" a police officer while in performance of his duties was again sustained by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which did not narrow or refine the words of the ordinance, although stating that it was limited to "fighting words" uttered to specific persons at a specific time.

Held: The ordinance, as thus construed, is susceptible of application to protected speech, and therefore is overbroad in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and facially invalid. The ordinance plainly has a broader sweep than the constitutional definition of "fighting words" as being words "which, by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace," Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U. S. 568, 315 U. S. 572; Gooding v. Wilson, supra, at 405 U. S. 522, since, at the least, "opprobrious language" embraces words that do not fall under that definition, the word "opprobrious" embracing words "conveying or intended to convey disgrace," id. at 405 U. S. 525. It is immaterial whether the words appellant used might be punishable under a properly limited ordinance. Pp. 415 U. S. 131-134.

263 La. 809, 269 So.2d 450, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, STEWART, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 415 U. S. 134. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 415 U. S. 136.

Page 415 U. S. 131

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