Boyle v. Landry

PETITIONER: Boyle et al.
RESPONDENT: Lawrence Landry et al.
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

CITATION: 401 US 77 (1971)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1969
REARGUED: Apr 29, 1970 / Nov 16, 1970
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1971

Facts of the case

Plaintiffs, several African American residents of Chicago, sought declaratory and injunctive relief against a number of Officials of Cook County and Chicago for the enforcement of a number of Illinois Statutes and Chicago ordinances prohibiting mob action, resisting arrest, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and intimidation. Plaintiffs contended that the officials violated Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to free speech by threatening enforcement of the statutes for the sole purpose of harassing and intimidating Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed the case in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. A three-judge court upheld all of the statutes except for one subsection that prohibited "the assembly of 2 or more persons to do an unlawful act" and one subsection a statute that prohibited intimidating a person by threats to commit any criminal offense. The court enjoined the officials from enforcing these two subsections. Defendants appealed the decision as to the intimidation statute.


Does an Illinois statute prohibiting the use of intimidation to commit a criminal offense violate freedom of speech?

Media for Boyle v. Landry

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - April 29, 1970 in Boyle v. Landry
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - November 16, 1970 in Boyle v. Landry

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 24, 1969 in Boyle v. Landry

Earl Warren:

Number 244, John S. Boyle, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois et al, appellants versus Lawrence Landry et al.

Ronald Butler:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Butler.

Ronald Butler:

Mr. Chief Justice, Your Honors, this is an appeal from a permanent injunctive order issued by a three-judge court in Northern District of Illinois which order for purposes of this appeal held unconstitutional one sub-section of the Illinois intimidation statute.

Illinois Revised Statutes, Chapter 38, Section 12-6 (a) (3).

Jurisdiction is conferred upon this Court by a Title 28, Section 1253 and 2281.

Probable jurisdiction was noted on the 9th of December 1968.

The posture of this case in the lower court is as follows: A complaint was filed by the plaintiffs purported alleging a conspiracy to violate the plaintiffs' constitutional right and setting forth that by the use of unconstitutional statutes on their face or statute or the misuse of statutes which would be otherwise constitutional that the plaintiff's' constitutional rights were violated.

The defendants' filed a motion to dismiss initially alleging four basic grounds.

First, lack of jurisdiction, second, no relief upon which your claim can be granted, third, as to those sub-classifications of plaintiffs who had been arrested prior to the filing of the complaint for federal equitable jurisdiction the bar of 28 U.S.C. 2283.

And lastly, as to those class of plaintiffs who had not been arrested but who were plaintiffs in the case the claim that the lack of specificity in the complaint takes jurisdiction away from the District Court.

The single trial judge dismissed the motion to dismiss filed by the defendants.

In doing so, he stated that the plaintiffs did have proper standing that the question of 2283 was a premature question because that statute was not jurisdictional that a three-judge court would be convened and the first order of business upon convening the three-judge court would be to determine the threshold question of constitutionality with respect to the five enumerated statutes which the plaintiffs have challenged.

The appellants thereby filed an answer, denying the material allegations of the complaint and specifically in an affirmative series of affirmative defenses setting forth those statements which we made in a motion to dismiss.

Now, the statue in question reads as follows: a person commits intimidation when with intent to cause another to perform or to omit the performance of an act he communicates to another a threat to perform without lawful authority anyone of the following acts in sub-section 3 commit a criminal offense.

The lower court held that the statute in question was overbroad because it prohibited insubstantial evil.

They said that the commission of offenses against public order only is not such a substantial evil that the state may prohibit the threat of it and they further stated that the prohibition of insubstantial evil is outweighed by legitimate political discussion on a wide birth.

There are two issues presented for review in this case.

One, whether the plaintiffs have sufficient requisites standing to entitle them to determination of the constitutionality of the intimidation statute and two, if they do have such standing whether the First Amendment prohibition against the abridgement of speech is violated by a state statute which prohibits threats to commit a criminal offense where the intention is to force another to surrender his freedom of choice.

Now, as to the standing point, the complaint shows the constitutional validity of five Illinois statutes: the map violating statute, resisting arrest, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and intimidation.

There are seven sub-classes of plaintiffs.

Six of the sub-classes have been arrested in incidents prior to the filing of the federal declaratory complaint and whose cases were presently pending at the time that the federal declaratory suit was filed.

Byron R. White:

What are the -- were any of those suits under the intimidation statute?

Ronald Butler:

None were under the intimidation statute, Your Honor.

Now, as far as the complainants who were not arrested but who were party's plaintiff, the complaint is the appellants' view it show no specificity with respect to the -- with respect to any factual allegations which can be shown to depict a depravation of constitutional right.

In my view, reading the 37 paragraph complaint there are six paragraphs which have anything at all to do with the intimidation statute and with the sub-classification of the plaintiffs who have challenged the statute under it.

That was paragraphs 8, 24, and 25, paragraphs 34, 37 (b) and 37 (f) but in each of those six paragraphs, the complaint is devoid of any specificity effect.

All we see are conclusory allegations.

I am intimidated because of the intimidation statute.

Now, the purported foundation for this case lies in two cases, Dombrowski versus Pfister and Zwickler versus Koota but in both of those cases, Your Honors, there were specificity effects at least in Dombrowski there were affidavits filed, there were offers of proof made in both Dombrowski and in Zwickler.