United States v. Kokinda Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The United States (Petitioner) prohibits the solicitation of contributions on postal property.

Facts of the case

“Marsha Kokinda and Kevin Pearl were volunteers for the National Democratic Policy Committee. They set up a table on a sidewalk near a post office to solicit contributions and sell political literature. After post office employees received a large number of complaints, Kokinda and Pearl were asked to leave. They refused, at which point postal inspectors arrested them. They were charged and convicted of violating 39 CFR 232.1(h)(1)(1989), which prohibits “”soliciting alms and contributions … on postal premises.”” They appealed the convictions, arguing that they violated the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. The District Court, ruling that the sidewalk in question (which was entirely on Postal Service property and was intended only for traffic to and from the Post Office) was not a public forum, found that the restrictions were reasonable and therefore did not violate the First Amendment. On appeal, however, a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the sidewalk was a traditional public forum and that the government’s regulations were therefore subject to strict scrutiny. Because the government had no significant interest in banning solicitation, the convictions were unconstitutional.”


Can the government regulate this form of protected speech?


Yes. This type of speech is disruptive to the activities of the post office.


“The postal sidewalk did not have the characteristics of public sidewalks that were traditionally open to expressive activity, nor had the postal sidewalk been expressly dedicated to any such activity, and therefore–even if the sidewalk had been dedicated to some First Amendment uses and thus was not a purely nonpublic forum–regulation of the sidewalk’s reserved nonpublic uses required application of the reasonableness test. The ban on solicitation on the postal sidewalk was reasonable, because (a) solicitation was inherently disruptive of the Postal Service’s business

  • (b) the Postal Service had concluded, after long experience, that a case-by-case approach to regulation of solicitation was unworkable
  • and (c) the regulation did not discriminate on the basis of content or viewpoint. Therefore, the ban on solicitation, as applied, did not violate the First Amendment.”
    • Case Brief: 1990
    • Petitioner: United States
    • Respondent: Kokinda
    • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

    Citation: 497 US 720 (1990)
    Argued: Feb 26, 1990
    Decided: Jun 27, 1990