Schenck v. United States (1919)
During World War I, when the United States was at war with Germany, Congress passed the Espionage Act, outlawing any attempt to foster insubordination or obstruct the draft. Charles Schenck, general secretary of the Socialist Party, was arrested for conspiring to print and circulate leaflets that would obstruct and hinder the enlistment service of the United States. Schenck argued that the Espionage Act violated his rights to freedom of speech and press. The Supreme Court held that in a time of war, extraordinary conditions may take effect where Congress has the right to forbid printed materials or speech aimed at hindering the war effort. The test for "a clear and present danger" was formulated to deal with questions regarding freedom of speech.
Copyright © 1997 Jonathan Chin & Alan Stern