Frisby v. Schultz

PETITIONER: Russell Frisby et al.
RESPONDENT: Sandra Schultz et al.
LOCATION: City of Brookfield: City Hall

DOCKET NO.: 87-168
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)

CITATION: 487 US 474 (1988)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1988

Facts of the case

Sandra Schultz and Robert Braun both strongly opposed abortion and gathered like-minded citizens together to picket in front of the home of a local doctor who performed abortions. In response, the city of Brookfield, Wisconsin passed a law against all picketing in front of residential homes except for labor disputes. Following the advice of the town attorney, the city amended the law to ban labor picketing as well. The stated purpose of the law was "the protection and preservation of the home." When enacted, Schultz and Braun stopped picketing and filed suit in federal district court, claiming that the law violated the First Amendment. The court declared it would issue a permanent injunction against the law unless it was narrowed in scope. The United States Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit affirmed that the law violated the First Amendment.


Does a city ordinance prohibiting picketing in front of residential homes violate the First Amendment?

Media for Frisby v. Schultz

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1988 in Frisby v. Schultz

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 27, 1988 in Frisby v. Schultz

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 87-168, Frisby against Schultz will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

This case is before us on appeal from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

It presents a facial First Amendment challenge to an ordinance enacted by the Town of Brookfield, Wisconsin that prohibits residential picketing.

The District Court held that the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed.

This panel decision was vacated however and the case was reheard en banc by the Court of Appeals which ultimately affirmed by an equally divided vote.

The town appealed here and we postponed consideration of jurisdiction until the hearing on the merits.

In the opinion filed today, we now reverse.

Rather than decide whether appellate jurisdiction is proper, we choose to treat the jurisdictional statement as a petition for a certiorari and have granted certiorari.

The ordinance operates against speech in a public forum since it bans picketing on the public streets.

The fact that the streets or residential does not affect the First Amendment analysis, but since the ordinance is content-neutral, it is permissible if it leaves open ample alternative channels of communication and if it is narrowly tailored to serve as significant government interest.

We conclude that the ordinance passes this test.

In order to avoid constitutional problems, we narrowly construe the scope of the ordinance as limited to picketing targeted at a single residence.

So construed, the ordinance leaves out an ample alternative since marching, leafleting, or even more broadly focus picketing is not prohibited.

The ordinance serves the significant interest of protecting residential privacy and the tranquility of the home.

Within their own homes, individuals should not be forced to listen to a speech they do not want to hear.

Since the very means of expression involved is inherently damaging the residential privacy.

The picketing ban is narrowly tailored.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

Justice White has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Marshall joins.

Justice Stevens has also filed a dissenting opinion.