Greer v. Spock

LOCATION:Ship’s Restaurant

DOCKET NO.: 74-848
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 424 US 828 (1976)
ARGUED: Nov 05, 1975
DECIDED: Mar 24, 1976

David Kairys – for respondents
Robert H. Bork – for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Greer v. Spock

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 05, 1975 in Greer v. Spock

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 24, 1976 in Greer v. Spock

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 74-848 Greer, the Commander of Fort Dix against Spock will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This case is here by reason of the grant of a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The Fort Dix Military Reservation is a United States Army post, located in Central New Jersey.

Its primary mission is to provide basic combat training for newly inducted army personnel.

Fort Dix has a regulation that prohibits partisan political speeches and demonstrations on the base.

This regulation has historically been rigorously and consistently enforced.

Fort Dix also has a regulation that prohibits the distribution of handbills on the base without the previous approval of the military authorities.

In this case, the Court of Appeals held that both of these regulations are constitutionally invalid, and we granted certiorari to review that judgment.

As to the first regulation, what the record shows is a considered Fort Dix policy objectively and evenhandedly applied of keeping official military activities there wholly free of entanglement with partisan political campaigns of any kind.

Under such a policy members of the Armed Forces stationed at Fort Dix are wholly free as individuals to attend political rallies, out of uniform and off the base.

But the military as such is insulated from both the reality and the appearance of acting as a handmaiden for partisan political causes or candidates.

This policy is wholly consistent with the American constitutional tradition of a politically neutral military establishment under civilian control.

It is a policy that has been reflected in numerous laws and military regulations throughout our history.

And it is a policy that the military authorities at Fort Dix were constitutionally free to pursue.

As to the second regulation regarding the distribution of handbills, it is possible of course that this regulation might in the future be applied irrationally, invidiously, or arbitrarily, but none of the respondents in the present case even submitted any material for review.

They were excluded from Fort Dix because they had previously distributed literature there without even attempting to obtain approval for the distribution.

This case, therefore, simply does not raise any question of unconstitutional application of that regulation to any specific situation.

For the reasons I have summarized and the additional reasons set out in some detail in a written opinion of the Court, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

The Chief Justice has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Powell has also filed a concurring opinion which Mr. Justice Blackmun has joined and in a part of which the Chief Justice has joined.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed an illustrated dissenting opinion, which Mr. Justice Marshall has joined.

And Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.