Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
United States v. Eichman
United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990) was a United States Supreme Court case that invalidated a federal law against flag desecration as violative of free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. It was argued together with the case United States v. Haggerty.
The case involved a challenge to the 1989 Flag Protection Act , which forbade the burning or other desecration of the American flag, while allowing for burning as a means of proper disposal of worn or soiled flags. The Act was passed in response to the Court's controversial 1989 decision in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), which upheld flag burning as an act of protected speech under the First Amendment.
The defendant in United States v. Eichman, Shawn Eichman, had burnt an American flag on the steps of the United States Capitol to protest American foreign and domestic policy. Mark Haggerty, in the jointly decided case, had burnt a flag in Seattle, Washington.
The case was argued on May 14 1990 and decided on June 11. In a 5-4 decision (with voting lines identical to the result in Texas v. Johnson), the Court reaffirmed Johnson and struck down the law against flag burning, stating that the government's interest in preserving the flag as a symbol did not outweigh the individual right to disparage that symbol through expressive conduct. Justice William J. Brennan, barely a month before he retired, wrote the Court's opinion. He was joined by Justices Thurgood Marshall, Harry A. Blackmun, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy. The dissenting opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, opposed striking down the law. Stevens was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Byron R. White and Sandra Day O'Connor.
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