Notable Items:

The Trouble with "Fighting Words" by Burton Caine, Marquette Law Review Vol. 88 No. 3, 2004
Fighting Words as Free Speech by Stephen W. Gard, Washington University Law Review Vol. 58, Issue 3, 1980
The "Fighting Words Doctrine" Is Applied to Abusive Language toward PolicemenAbusive Language toward Policemen by Mark Pearlstein, DePaul Law Review Vol. 22 Article 10, 1973

Petitioner: Chaplinsky
Respondent: State of New Hampshire
Venue: Supreme Court of the United States
Opinion of the Court: Chaplinsky-NewHampshire (1942)


Procedural History:

Petitioner's Claim(s):

that the statute was invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in that it placed an unreasonable restraint on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of worship, and because it was vague and indefinite.


[A Freedom of Speech issue. Press and religion not involved. Possible vagueness in the statute.]

Holding(s) and Disposition:

  1. 91 N.H. 310, 18 A.2d 754, affirmed.
  2. that part of c. 378, § 2, of the Public Law of New Hampshire is sufficiently definite and specific to comply with requirements of due process of law. P. 315 U. S. 573.
  3. that the statute does not substantially or unreasonably impinge upon freedom of speech. P. 315 U.S. 574.
  4. refusal of the state court to admit evidence offered by the defendant tending to prove provocation and evidence bearing on the truth or falsity of the utterances charged is open to no constitutional objection. P. 315 U.S. 574.


Murphy majority opinion

?? concur in part, dissent in part (??)

?? dissent (??)

Relevant Portion of New Hampshire Statute

Chapter 378, § 2, of the Public Laws of New Hampshire:
"No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name, nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation."