Brandenburg vs. Ohio

Case Study

General Facts:

  • Brandenburg was a Ku Klux Klan leader.
  • One night Brandenburg made a speech on live TV on a news station regarding him wanting to take action such as violence against the government, because they were suppressing the white race, which in Ohio was against the law and he was arrested for the statements he had made. The law that he had violated which was only enforced in Ohio and was called, "Ohio Criminal Syndicalism Law."
  • Definition of "Ohio Syndicalism Law"- In the state of Ohio it was illegal to advocate (crime, sabotage, violence and etc. by means of speech. Speech could be hindered/ prohibited if it was producing a lawless action.

Constitutional Reference

This law created in Ohio directly conflicts with the constitution in the First Amendment regarding "Freedom of Speech.

  • Brandenburg therefore felt his right of Freedom of Speech was violated and immediately took his case to the higher courts.


The Brandenburg vs. Ohio case set the precedent on advocating force that a state is not allowed to suppress a citizen's by using force or law, because it is a direct violation of the first amendment. The government can only use force when the action is actually committed; because its a source of proof rather that just going off of someone only simply mentioning something.

Historic Significance

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brandenburg. This was one of the most important free-expression cases. This case set the tone of how Freedom of Speech was supposed to be administered and how far a persons speech could go.

Significance Today

The Brandenburg case makes/made it harder to convict any citizen who spoke in favor of violence or who made reckless statements regarding bringing violence upon the government or in general who spoke in favor of violence.

In all honesty this case did a little justice, because everyone has made statements regarding the government....... for instance,

The government is not perfect, and they make mistakes that may affect us directly and in some instance or another we may not feel the best about them and may make a reckless statement at the wrong place and time that could land us in jail if we lived in Ohio and this law was still active. In this example it could be a matter precaution even though simple could have been the case today if the law was still in effect and running.

Future Significance

For future reference, the government is not allowed to convict a person based off of what they say; and instead there has to be an action behind it.

  • For that reason in particular its important to have action behind a statement because if you counted the amount of statements or threats made against the government by everyone and none of them actually did anything then EVERYBODY would be in jail.
Example: If people mentioned they were going to rob or takeover the state government and bring harm to the people in the capitol there is nothing that the government can do but prepare because there hasn't been any crime committed, only talk of it. People can talk all day long but its whether they actually go through with it.

Brandenburg v. Ohio