What Was the Significance of Schneck V. US?

Schenck v US (1919) changed the interpretation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution concerning freedom of speech during times of war, according to JRank. The case established the “clear and present danger” rule, which did not require desirable objectives to take place in order to be punishable by law.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion, according to the American Bar Association. In the opinion, he stated that different acts constitute free speech under different circumstances. He famously likened the distribution of leaflets against conscription during a time of war to yelling “fire" in a theater. The case signified a new direction for the Court. Congress had the authority to regulate free speech in time of war that caused a “clear and present danger” to national interests.

Schenck was a member of the socialist party, and he mailed pamphlets during War World I that spoke against the Conscription Act, according to The Oyez Project. The pamphlets also called for people to protest the draft. Authorities convicted Schenck under the Espionage Act. Even though an insurrection did not occur, the Court ruled that the intent to avoid the draft damaged wartime efforts. Schenck was sentenced to 30 years in prison, according to JRank.