The Bill of Rights, which is the first ten Amendments and the rest of the Amendments of the United States Constitution represent one of the most important pieces of history of the United States, but it also plays a major role in many of the Supreme Court’s cases on society’s everyday life. There are many facets to each of the Constitution’s Amendments, but the first thing I noticed passing through the readings was the exceptions that each of the Amendments have towards the protections they give us citizens.
For example, one Amendment that I thought gave protection to the citizen no matter what was the Freedom of Speech portion of the First Amendment. While reading, I learned that we are protected with this Amendment unless our method of speech begins to harm or injure another person, place, law or rule. During the class discussion, I observed how dynamic the discussion turned, and also how debated it turned with several classmates stating their arguments and why they thought they were valid and correct.
This shows how much controversy and argumentation certain court cases and topics can create on our society. Lastly, and the most interesting aspect that caught my attention about the Amendments and Bill of Rights topic is that somehow, some of the subtopics of the readings of the Amendments are interrelated. The subtopics of defamation and public nuisance can be interrelated in the sense that defamation of an authoritative figure in a the form of press can be considered a public nuisance and be convicted in court, as such the case of Neal v. Minnesota in 1931.
The case of Neal v. Minnesota consisted of a man named Jay M. Near, that began running a newspaper alongside criminal libel convict Howard Guilfol, titled The Saturday Press that was targeting several of authoritative figures of the state of Minneapolis. “The paper claimed that Jewish gangs were “practically ruling” the city along with the police chief, Frank W. Brunskill, who was accused of participation in graft.
Among the paper’s other targets were mayor George E. Leach, Hennepin County attorney and future three-term governor Floyd B. Olson, and the members of the grand jury of Hennepin County, who the paper claimed were either incompetent or willfully failing to investigate and prosecute known criminal activity. ”(www. wikipedia. com) Governor Olson filed a complaint against Near and Guilfol for Public Nuisance of 1925. He argued that the accusations made by them against him and other authoritative figures were a violation of this law and should be prosecuted in trial.
“More than two hundred years ago, Blackstone, the famous English lawyer, described nuisances as “anything that unlawfully worketh hurt, inconvenience or damage. ”(Gardner, p. 219) The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court of Minnesota with two separate decisions. The first decision was to declare that the First Amendment protected those who where honest, careful and conscientious not those who defamed and libeled against others. The second decision after returning the case back to Minnesota and back to the Supreme Court was the reversion of the decision and naming the Public Nuisance law as unconstitutional.
When I read about this case I found it interesting because of the way the case was handled and it surprised me of the final decision of the Supreme Court. Press speech is supposed to consist about honest, truthful and direct declarations about society and not about hurting and defaming other individuals, laws or theories. Thinking about the case, I think the decision to reverse the decision was an incorrect one because defamation of a person can cause serious consequences to that person’s reputation and in some extreme cases, that damage is irreversible.
A punishment must have been given to both Neal and Guilfol. Overall, this case made me feel somewhat mad because I saw once again the injustice that the judicial system can illustrate to its society and demonstrates why society in certain cases takes justice into its own hands. Although I am not arguing that it should be this way, I am only explaining my opinion of why society sometimes behaves the way it does. As long as these kinds of injustices take place, society will not change its way and will feel more in the liberty to do the acts it does.
“It is the first step in sociological wisdom, to recognize that the major advances in civilization are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur: like unto an arrow in the hand of a child. The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason.
Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows”-Alfred North Whitehead Works Cited • Gardner, Thomas J. Criminal Law Tenth Edition Cengage Learning 2009 • Neal v. Minnesota www. wikipedia. com December 13, 2008 http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Near_v. _Minnesota#First_Minnesota_Supreme_Court_decision