TEXAS v. JOHNSON (491 U.S. 397) Flashcard

TEXAS v. JOHNSON
(491 U.S. 397)
During the 1984 Republican National Convention, Johnson (Defendant) participated in a political demonstration to protest the policies of the Reagan administration. Johnson publicity burned an American flag while protesters chanted. Johnson was convicted of desecration of a “respected” object (flag) in violation of a Texas statute. A STATE COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMED. However, the TEXAS COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS REVERTED, holding that the State couldn’t punish Johnson for burning the flag in these circumstances.
ISSUE
Whether a Defendant’s burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the 1st Amendment? (Is someone protected by the 1st Amendment if he burn a flag?)
BRIEF FACT SUMMARY
A conviction for burning the U.S. flag based on a Texas law was OVERRULED after the U.S. Supreme Court found the Texas law UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
MAJORITY VOTE
(5 votes for Johnson)
Justice Brennan:
The state’s interest in preserving a flag as a symbol of nationhood doesn’t justify convicting someone because it is not consistent with the 1st Amendment.
(JJ. Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, Kennedy)
MINORITY VOTE
(4 against Johnson)
Dissent: The interest of preserving the flag as a symbol of nationhood is legitimate and justified the Defendant’s conviction.
(JJ. Rehnquist, White, Stevens, O’Connor)
DISCUSSION
The case resulted in battle lines being drawn between those in Congress who wanted to amend the Constitution to permit restraints on flag desecration and those who supported new legislation rather than constitutional amendment.

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