National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie

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National Socialist Party v. Skokie
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Decided June 14, 1977
Full case name National Socialist Party of America et al. v. Village of Skokie
Docket nos. 76-1786
Citations 432 U.S. 43 (more)
97 S. Ct. 2205; 53 L. Ed. 2d 96; 1977 U.S. LEXIS 113; 2 Media L. Rep. 1993
If a state seeks to impose an injunction in violation of First Amendment rights, it must provide strict procedural safeguards, including immediate appellate review. Absent such review, a stay must be granted.
Court membership
Case opinions
Per curiam.
Concur/dissent White
Dissent Rehnquist, joined by Burger, Stewart
Laws applied
First Amendment of the United States Constitution

National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977) (also known as Smith v. Collin; sometimes referred to as the Skokie Affair), was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with freedom of assembly. The outcome was that the National Socialist Party of America (NSPA) was not prohibited to demonstrate or display swastikas.


In 1977 Frank Collin, the leader of National Socialist Party of America, announced the party's intention to march through Skokie, Illinois. In the predominantly Jewish community, one in six residents was a Holocaust survivor or was directly related to one.[1] Originally, the NSPA had planned a political rally in Marquette Park in Chicago; however the Chicago authorities blocked these plans by requiring the NSPA to post a public safety insurance bond and by banning political demonstrations in Marquette Park.

On behalf of the NSPA, the ACLU challenged the injunction issued by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois that prohibited marchers at the proposed Skokie rally from wearing Nazi uniforms or displaying swastikas. The ACLU was represented by civil rights attorney Burton Joseph.[2][3] The challengers argued that the injunction violated the First Amendment rights of the marchers to express themselves.

Prior history

Both the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court refused to stay the injunction. The case was sent to the Supreme Court of the United States.[4]

On June 14, 1977, the Supreme Court ordered Illinois to hold a hearing on their ruling against the National Socialist Party of America, emphasizing that "if a State seeks to impose a restraint on First Amendment rights, it must provide strict procedural safeguards, including immediate appellate review... Absent such review, the State must instead allow a stay. The order of the Illinois Supreme Court constituted a denial of that right."[4] On remand, the Illinois Appellate Court eliminated the injunction against everything but the swastika. The Illinois Supreme Court heard the case again, focusing on the First Amendment implications of display of the swastika. Skokie attorneys argued that for Holocaust survivors, seeing the swastika was like being physically attacked.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the use of the swastika is a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protections and determined that the swastika itself did not constitute "fighting words." Its ruling allowed the National Socialist Party of America to march.[4]

Effect of the decision

In the summer of 1978, in response to the Supreme Court's decision, some Holocaust survivors set up a museum on the Main Street of Skokie to commemorate those who had died in the concentration camps. Ultimately the NSPA failed to carry through its march in Skokie. (Gaining permission in Chicago, they marched there instead).

See also


  1. Long, Deborah (2010-01-01). First Hitler, Then Your Father, and Now You. p. 71. ISBN 9780557302925. 
  2. Grimes, William (April 4, 2010). "Burton Joseph, Lawyer in First Amendment Cases, Is Dead pat 79". The New York Times. p. A22. 
  3. Burnette, Daarel (April 1, 2010). "Burton Joseph, 1930-2010: Attorney championed civil rights". Chicago Tribune. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 National Socialist Party v. Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977) -

Further reading

  • Bollinger, Lee C.; Neier, Aryeh (1982). "The Skokie Legacy: Reflections on an 'Easy Case' and Free Speech Theory". Michigan Law Review. 80 (4): 617–33. JSTOR 1288226. doi:10.2307/1288226. 
  • Barnum, David G. (1982). "Decision Making in A Constitutional Democracy: Policy Formation in the Skokie Free Speech Controversy". The Journal of Politics. 44 (2): 480–508. doi:10.2307/2130597. 
  • Schauer, Frederick (2005). "The Wily Agitator and the American Free Speech Tradition". Stanford Law Review. 57 (6): 2157–70. JSTOR 40040243. 

External links