Gitlow v. New York

PETITIONER:Benjamin Gitlow
RESPONDENT:People of the State of New York

DECIDED BY: Taft Court (1925-1930)
LOWER COURT: New York Court of Appeals

ARGUED: Apr 12, 1923 / Nov 23, 1923
DECIDED: Jun 08, 1925

John Caldwell Myers – Assistant District Attorney of New York County, for New York
Walter H. Pollak – for Gitlow
W. J. Weatherbee – for New York

Facts of the case

Gitlow, a socialist, was arrested for distributing copies of a “left-wing manifesto” that called for the establishment of socialism through strikes and class action of any form. Gitlow was convicted under a state criminal anarchy law, which punished advocating the overthrow of the government by force. At his trial, Gitlow argued that since there was no resulting action flowing from the manifesto’s publication, the statute penalized utterences without propensity to incitement of concrete action. The New York courts had decided that anyone who advocated the doctrine of violent revolution violated the law.


Is the New York law punishing advocacy to overthrow the government by force an unconstitutional violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment?