City of Houston, Texas v. Hill

PETITIONER: City of Houston, Texas
LOCATION: Ronald Dunn’s Ranch

DOCKET NO.: 86-243
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 451 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1987

Charles Alan Wright - on behalf of Appellee
Marshal Wong - on behalf of appellant
Robert J. Collins - on behalf of Appellant

Facts of the case


Media for City of Houston, Texas v. Hill

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1987 in City of Houston, Texas v. Hill

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Collins, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Robert J. Collins:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case raises serious questions about whether a city can prohibit the intentional interruption of a police officer during an investigation without infringing Constitutional rights protected under the First Amendment.

The answer to this question is of vital importance to both the city of Houston and many other cities and states in this country.

There are three principle legal issues that must be addressed by the court.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Collins, let me inquire about that statement, that it's of vital importance to Houston.

I thought that the ordinance there had been repealed by the City Council.

Robert J. Collins:

It has not, Your Honor.

In 19--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And then reinstated just for purposes of this litigation.

Robert J. Collins:

--That is not correct, your Honor.

In 1981, the city of Houston started out on a code recodification process.

That process took approximately four years.

Our initial, one of our initial recommendations regarding this statute was to possibly repeal it.

After the Hill suit came around the city of Houston City Council has reconsidered that recommendation at this point.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, so what is the status?

It's going to become a permanent part of the Houston City Code if you win this lawsuit?

Robert J. Collins:

It is already a permanent part of the city of Houston City Code.

The fact that it is not codified does not affect its enforceability at all.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well why wasn't it put in the codification?

Robert J. Collins:

It was not put in the codification because at the time of codification the panel decision in the Hill case by the Fifth Circuit had been decided two to one and we were concerned that if we did put it in, it would be inadvertently be enforced.

So if it's not codified we're not enforcing it at the current time.

The legal issues before the Court center around the application of the Overbreadth Doctrine to a core criminal conduct statute.

It's the city's contention that the appellee, Mr. Hill, was involved in activities that were well within the Constitutionally prescribable realm of core criminal conduct, and as such he should not be able to assert the rights of other individuals not before this Court.

Sandra Day O'Connor:


Robert J. Collins:

That's correct.

Antonin Scalia:

Well, how can we possibly agree with you on that if the man was acquitted?

Robert J. Collins:

I think the question is: do the police officers have probable cause to arrest somebody for violation of this statute?

I don't think we can hold a statute unconstitutional because an individual who raises it was acquitted.

Antonin Scalia:

I don't understand.