Burson v. Freeman

LOCATION:Etowah County Commission

DOCKET NO.: 90-1056
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: Tennessee Supreme Court

CITATION: 504 US 191 (1992)
ARGUED: Oct 08, 1991
DECIDED: May 26, 1992

Charles W. Burson – Petitioner, argued the cause, pro se
John E. Herbison – Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Freeman, a Tennessee political campaign treasurer, challenged the constitutionality of the Tennessee Code forbidding the solicitation of votes and the display or distribution of campaign materials within 100 feet of entrances to polling facilities. On appeal from a lower court’s dismissal, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed, finding that the 100-foot ban was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court granted Burson certiorari.


Did Tennessee’s 100-foot limit violate the First Amendment’s freedom of speech?

Media for Burson v. Freeman

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 08, 1991 in Burson v. Freeman

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 26, 1992 in Burson v. Freeman

Harry A. Blackmun:

The second case is No. 90-1056, Burson versus Freeman.

Tennessee has a statute which prohibits the solicitation of votes and the display or distribution of campaign materials within 100 Feet of the entrance to a polling place on Election Day.

Respondent, while she was the treasurer for a political campaign in Tennessee, brought this State Court action alleging that the statute limited her ability to communicate with voters and that this was in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The State Court dismissed the suit but the Supreme Court of Tennessee reversed.

It ruled that the state had a compelling interest in banning such activities within the polling place itself but not on the surrounding premises, and it therefore concluded that the 100-Foot limit was not narrowly tailored to protect the State’s interest and was not the least restrictive means to serve those interests.

I have the judgment of this Court to announce.

We reverse the judgment of the Tennessee Supreme Court and remand the case.

The Chief Justice, Justice White, Justice Kennedy, and I conclude that the statute does not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Justice Kennedy has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice O’Connor and Justice Souter have joined.

Justice Thomas took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.