Constitutional Law Keyed to Rotunda
Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham
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Shuttlesworth (Defendant), an African-American church minister, applied for a parade permit in the city of Birmingham, Alabama (Plaintiff). A city ordinance conferred discretionary authority upon a city commission to approve or deny parade permit applications. In spite of the commission’s refusal to grant a permit, Defendant joined 51 other African-Americans in a march along the streets of Birmingham. After four blocks, the marchers were stopped and arrested. Defendant was convicted of violating the parade permit ordinance and sentenced to 90 days hard labor plus an additional 48 days for failure to pay the associated fine. Defendant appealed the conviction in state court. The state court of appeals concluded that the city ordinance violated First Amendment free speech protections and vacated the conviction. The state supreme court held that the ordinance was not unconstitutional when narrowly construed and applied. The state supreme court reinstated Defendant’s conviction. Defendant petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.
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