CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF ERRORS AND APPEALS OF NEW JERSEY.
Hughes, McReynolds, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Four cases are here, each of which presents the question whether regulations embodied in a municipal ordinance
abridge the freedom of speech and of the press secured against state invasion by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.*fn1
The Municipal Code of the City of Los Angeles, 1936, provides:
"Sec. 28.00. 'Hand-Bill' shall mean any hand-bill, dodger, commercial advertising circular, folder, booklet, letter, card, pamphlet, sheet, poster, sticker, banner, notice or other written, printed or painted matter calculated to attract attention of the public."
"Sec. 28.01. No person shall distribute any hand-bill to or among pedestrians along or upon any street, sidewalk or park, or to passengers on any street car, or throw, place or attach any hand-bill in, to, or upon any automobile or other vehicle."
The appellant was charged in the Municipal Court with a violation of § 28.01. Upon his trial it was proved that he distributed handbills to pedestrians on a public sidewalk and had more than three hundred in his possession for that purpose. Judgment of conviction was entered and sentence imposed. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County affirmed the judgment.*fn2 That court being the highest court in the State authorized to pass upon such a case, an appeal to this court was allowed.
The handbill which the appellant was distributing bore a notice of a meeting to be held under the auspices of "Friends Lincoln Brigade" at which speakers would discuss the war in Spain.
The court below sustained the validity of the ordinance on the ground that experience shows littering of the
streets results from the indiscriminate distribution of handbills.*fn3 It held that the right of free expression is not absolute but subject to reasonable regulation and that the ordinance does not transgress the bounds of reasonableness. Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, was distinguished on the ground that the ordinance there in question prohibited distribution anywhere within the city while the one involved forbids distribution in a very limited number of places.
An ordinance of the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, provides: "It is hereby made unlawful for any person . . . to . . . throw . . . paper . . . or to circulate or distribute any circular, hand-bills, cards, posters, dodgers, or other printed or advertising matter . . . in or upon any sidewalk, street, alley, wharf, boat landing, dock or other public place, park or ground within the City of Milwaukee. . . ."
The petitioner, who was acting as a picket, stood in the street in front of a meat market and distributed to passing pedestrians hand-bills which pertained to a labor dispute with the meat market, set forth the position of organized labor with respect to the market, and asked citizens to refrain from patronizing it. Some of the bills were thrown in the street by the persons to whom they were given and it resulted that many of the papers lay ...