Boos v. Barry Case Brief

Facts of the Case

“District of Columbia Code § 22-1115 made it unlawful, within 500 feet of a foreign embassy, either to display any sign that tends to bring the foreign government into “public odium” or “public disrepute” (display clause), or to congregate and refuse to obey a police dispersal order (congregation clause). Michael Boos, Michael Waller and Bridget Brooker, hereinafter, “petitioners”, wished to carry signs critical of the Governments of the Soviet Union and Nicaragua on the public sidewalks within 500 feet of the embassies of those Governments in Washington, D. C. They further wished to congregate with two or more other persons within 500 feet of official foreign buildings. Asserting that D. C. Code § 22-1115 (1981) prohibited them from engaging in these expressive activities, petitioners brought a facialchallenge to that provision in the District Court for the District of Columbia. The lower courts held that the challenged provisions of the statute (i.e. display clause and congregation clause of the statute) were constitutional. Thereafter, the petitioners sought review of the judgment rendered by the lower courts.”


Does the right to due process encompass the right to a competency evaluation before a defendant stands trial?


“The Court found that the Code’s restriction on sign displays violated the First Amendment while the ban on congregations did not. First, Justice O’Connor argued that the prohibition on signs failed to meet the high standards that the Court uses when evaluating the content-based regulation of political speech in a public forum. The “dignity” standard that the Code used was similar to the “outrageousness” standard which the Court found unconstitutional in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1988) because it was too subjective. Second, O’Connor reasoned that since the language of the ban on congregations was narrowly drawn and could only be acted upon by the police in situations where a threat to security or peace were present, it did not prohibit peaceful gatherings.”

Case Information

Citation: 485 US 312 (1988)
Argued: Nov 9, 1987
Decided: Mar 22, 1988
Case Brief: 1988