The Hughes Court (1930–41)

First Amendment

What Hughes Court decision laid the foundation for the public forum doctrine?

In Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization (1939), the Hughes Court invalidated a Jersey City, New Jersey, ordinance that allowed the director of public safety to deny permits for the use of city halls for public meetings. Jersey City officials also prohibited labor organizations from distributing printed material on the public streets, while allowing other groups to distribute printed material without interference. The Court majority determined that this violated the labor group’s constitutional rights. In his plurality opinion, Justice Owen Roberts wrote that public streets and parks were places that by tradition should be open to the public to exercise their constitutional rights to assembly, petition, and speech. This statement formed the historical basis for the so-called public forum doctrine in First Amendment law that gives increased free-expression protection in certain public places.


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