Supreme Court Decisions Essay

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Supreme Court Decisions The Espionage Act of 1917 was passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. Originally, it prohibited attempts to interfere with military operations, military recruitment, or attempts to support U.S. enemies during wartime. It also prohibited military insubordination. In Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 48 (1919), General Secretary of the American Socialist Party Charles T. Schenk appealed his prior conviction under the Espionage Act of 1917 on the grounds that it violated his First Amendment Right to free speech. Schenck was convicted of mailing approximately fifteen thousand letters to those who had registered for the draft in an attempt to persuade them to assert their opposition to same. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and in the Court’s unanimous delivered opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. explained the First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging military insubordination because: “When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.” Justice Holmes’ opinion quoted above is the basis of his clear and present danger test used subsequently in Debs v. United States. Schenck spent six months in prison. In Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), American labor leader Eugene V. Debs appealed his previous federal conviction under the Espionage Act of 1917. Debs had given several speeches in Canton, Ohio discussing the rise of socialism and praising individuals who had refused to serve in the military and obstructed military recruiting. Debs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Espionage Act of 1917 violated his First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech. Again, in a
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