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Syllabus Appellant was convicted of violating that part of Cal. [p16] Appellant Paul Robert Cohen was convicted in the Los Angeles Municipal Court of violating that part of California Penal Code § 415 which prohibits "maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person . Because that is the only arguably sustainable rationale for the conviction here at issue, the judgment below must be [p27] The statute provides in full: Every person who maliciously and willfully disturbs the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person, by loud or unusual noise, or by tumultuous or offensive conduct, or threatening, traducing, quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, or who, on the public streets of any unincorporated town, or upon the public highways in such unincorporated town, run any horse race, either for a wager or for amusement, or fire any gun or pistol in such unincorporated town, or use any vulgar, profane, or indecent language within the presence or hearing of women or children, in a loud and boisterous manner, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction by any Court of competent jurisdiction shall be punished by fine not exceeding two hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the County Jail for not more than ninety days, or by both fine and imprisonment, or either, at the discretion of the Court. be guilty of disturbing the peace through "offensive" conduct [within the meaning of § 415] if, by his actions, he willfully and maliciously incites others to violence or engages in conduct likely to incite others to violence.Penal Code § 415 which prohibits "maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person . The suggestion has been made that, in light of the supervening opinion of the California Supreme Court in opinion, Chief Justice Traynor stated: [One] may . ( It is illuminating to note what transpired when Cohen entered a courtroom in the building.Paul Ford, once again, has written up something fascinating.
There are actually a lot more, and it goes on and on. There were women and children present in the corridor. The defendant testified that he wore the jacket knowing that the words were on the jacket as a means of informing the public of the depth of his feelings against the Vietnam War and the draft. Yet no readily ascertainable general principle exists for stopping short of that result were we to affirm the judgment below. The facts upon which his conviction rests are detailed in the opinion of the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, as follows: On April 26, 1968, the defendant was observed in the Los Angeles County Courthouse in the corridor outside of division 20 of the municipal court wearing a jacket bearing the words "Fuck the Draft" which were plainly visible. In affirming the conviction, the Court of Appeal held that "offensive conduct" means "behavior which has a tendency to provoke to acts of violence or to in turn disturb the peace," and that the State had proved this element because, on the facts of this case, [i]t was certainly reasonably foreseeable that such conduct might cause others to rise up to commit a violent act against the person of the defendant or attempt to forcibly remove his jacket. We cannot lose sight of the fact that, in what otherwise might seem a trifling and annoying instance of individual distasteful abuse of a privilege, these fundamental societal values are truly implicated. Surely the State has no right to cleanse public debate to the point where it is grammatically palatable to the most squeamish among us. Further, the State certainly lacks power to punish Cohen for the underlying content of the message the inscription conveyed. 359 (1931), not upon any separately identifiable conduct which allegedly was intended by Cohen to be perceived by others as expressive of particular views but which, on its face, does not necessarily convey any message, and hence arguably could be regulated without effectively repressing Cohen's ability to express himself. In the first place, Cohen was tried under a statute applicable throughout the entire State. It cannot plausibly be maintained that this vulgar allusion to the Selective Service System would conjure up such psychic stimulation in anyone likely to be confronted with Cohen's crudely defaced jacket. In this regard, persons confronted with Cohen's jacket were in a quite different posture than, say, those subjected to the raucous emissions of sound trucks blaring outside their residences. At least so long as there is no showing of an intent to incite disobedience to or disruption of the draft, Cohen could not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, be punished for asserting the evident position on the inutility or immorality of the draft his jacket reflected. In this vein, too, however, we think it important to note that several issues typically associated with such problems are not presented here. While the four-letter word displayed by Cohen in relation to the draft is not uncommonly employed in a personally provocative fashion, in this instance it was clearly not "directed to the person of the hearer." 310 U. Nor do we have here an instance of the exercise of the State's police power to prevent a speaker from intentionally provoking a given group to hostile reaction. Of course, the mere presumed presence of unwitting listeners or viewers does not serve automatically to justify curtailing all speech capable of giving offense. Any broader view of this authority would effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections.