Parker v. Levy Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Levy (Respondent) is an Army physician who is being court-martialed for making disparaging statements about the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.

Facts of the case

Question

Is military regulation of speech constitutionally valid?

Answer

Yes. A commissioned officer of the military has the responsibility to act in accordance with and support the efforts of the military in time of war.

Conclusion

The United States Supreme Court reversed on appeal, holding that neither Article 133 nor Article 134 was void for vagueness under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment , since each Article had been construed by military authorities in such a manner as to at least partially narrow its otherwise broad scope and to supply considerable specificity by way of examples of covered conduct. Because of the differentiations between military society and civilian society, Congress was permitted to legislate with greater breadth and flexibility when prescribing rules governing the military. As such, the Army officer could not successfully attack the Articles for vagueness since, under construction of the Articles by military authorities, he could have had no reasonable doubt that his public statements urging African American enlisted men not to go to Vietnam if ordered to do so were punishable under the Articles. Lastly, the Supreme Court ruled that Articles 133 and 134 were not facially invalid because of overbreadth under the First Amendment , the fundamental necessity for obedience and discipline rendering permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it, and the Articles, as construed by military authorities, prohibiting a wide range of easily identifiable and constitutionally proscribable conduct.

  • Case Brief: 1974
  • Appellant: Parker
  • Appellee: Levy
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 417 US 733 (1974)
Argued: Feb 20, 1974
Decided: Jun 19, 1974