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Facts and Case Summary: Cox v. New Hampshire

Facts and case summary for Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569 (1941). Reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on speech are constitutionally permissible.


A New Hampshire town required that a license be obtained before parades could be held within the town. A group of Jehovah's Witnesses held a sidewalk parade without first obtaining the license and they were fined for violating the law. The Jehovah's Witnesses challenged the New Hampshire law, saying that its provisions violated their First Amendment rights. Specifically, they challenged the fee attached to the permit as a means of suppressing their free speech rights.


Whether time, place, and manner restrictions on holding a parade violate the First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly.



Reasoning (9-0)

A unanimous Supreme Court, via Justice Charles Evans Hughes, held that, although the government cannot regulate the contents of speech, it can place reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on speech for the public safety. The Court held that the New Hampshire law was not meant to prohibit speech, but simply to regulate it when it took the form of a parade or other form of large gathering. The Court said that the government had a legitimate interest in keeping order at such events, and it could impose a fee for the license that was proportional to the amount of police presence that would be required to ensure the peaceable nature of the event.