Greer v. Spock
Annotate this Case
424 U.S. 828 (1976)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Greer v. Spock, 424 U.S. 828 (1976)
Greer v. Spock
Argued November 5, 1975
Decided March 24, 1976
424 U.S. 828
Fort Dix, a federal military reservation devoted primarily to basic training for newly inducted Army personnel, and over which the Government exercises exclusive jurisdiction, permits free civilian access to certain unrestricted areas. However, post regulations ban speeches and demonstrations of a partisan political nature and also prohibit the distribution of literature without prior approval of post headquarters. Pursuant to these regulations, the commanding officer of Fort Dix rejected the request of respondent candidates for President and Vice President to distribute campaign literature and hold a political meeting on the post and the other respondents, who had been evicted on several occasions for distributing literature not previously approved, were barred from reentering the post. Respondents brought suit to enjoin enforcement of these regulations on the ground that they violated the First and Fifth Amendments. The District Court issued an injunction prohibiting the military authorities from interfering with the making of political speeches or the distribution of leaflets in areas of Fort Dix open to the general public, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
1. The regulations are not constitutionally invalid on their face. Since under the Constitution it is the basic function of a military installation like Fort Dix to train soldiers, not to provide a public forum, and since, as a necessary concomitant to this basic function, a commanding officer has the historically unquestioned power to exclude civilians from the area of his command, any notion that federal military installations, like municipal streets and parks, have traditionally served as a place for free public assembly and communication of thoughts by private citizens is false, and therefore respondents had no generalized constitutional right to make political speeches or distribute leaflets at Fort Dix. Flower v. United States, 407 U. S. 197, distinguished. Pp. 424 U. S. 834-838.
2. Nor were the regulations unconstitutionally applied under the circumstances of this case. Pp. 424 U. S. 838-840.
(a) As to the regulation banning political speeches and demonstrations, there is no claim that the military authorities discriminated in any way among candidates based upon the candidates' supposed political views; on the contrary, it appears that Fort Dix has a policy, objectively and evenhandedly applied, of keeping official military activities there wholly free of entanglement with any partisan political campaigns, a policy that the post was constitutionally free to pursue. Pp. 424 U. S. 838-839.
(b) As to the regulation governing the distribution of literature, a military commander may disapprove only those publications that he perceives clearly endanger the loyalty, discipline, or morale of troops on the base under his command, and, while this regulation might in the future be applied irrationally, invidiously, or arbitrarily, none of the respondents even submitted any material for review, and the noncandidate respondents had been excluded from the post because they had previously distributed literature there without attempting to obtain approval. P. 424 U. S. 840.
502 F.2d 953, reversed.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 424 U. S. 840. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in Part III of which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 424 U. S. 842. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 424 U. S. 849. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 424 U. S. 872. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.