Stromberg v. California

PETITIONER:Yetta Stromberg
LOCATION: Pioneer Summer Camp Conference

DECIDED BY: Hughes Court (1930-1932)

ARGUED: Apr 15, 1931
DECIDED: May 18, 1931

John Beardsley – for the appellant
John D. Richer – for the appellee

Facts of the case

The District Attorney of California charged Yetta Stromberg with violating a California law prohibiting displaying a red flag in a public meeting place. Stromberg displayed this flag daily at Pioneer Summer Camp, a children’s camp in the San Bernadino Mountains. The law prohibited displaying such a flag for any of three reasons: (1) “as a sign, symbol, or emblem of opposition to organized government”; (2) “as an invitation or stimulus to anarchistic action”; or (3) “as an aid to propaganda that is of a seditious character”. Stromberg argued that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The judge overruled the objection and a jury convicted Stromberg. The jury did not specify for which of the three reasons. The District Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction, holding that while the first reason was unconstitutional as a constraint on free speech, the second two were constitutional and capable of standing on their own.


(1) Is the California law unconstitutional?

(2) Are the three reasons separable?