The Scope of the First Amendment

Today in Supreme Court history brings us the landmark case Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), where the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution had extended the First Amendment's provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press to apply to the governments of U.S. states.


Incorporation, in United States law, is the doctrine by which portions of the Bill of Rights have been made applicable to the states. When the Bill of Rights was ratified, the courts held that its protections extended only to the actions of the federal government and that the Bill of Rights did not place limitations on the authority of the state and local governments.


However, the post-Civil War era, beginning in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment, which declared the abolition of slavery, gave rise to the incorporation of other Amendments, applying more rights to the states and people over time. Gradually, various portions of the Bill of Rights have been held to be applicable to the state and local governments by incorporation through the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 and the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870.


Gitlow was also one of a series of Supreme Court cases that defined the scope of the First Amendment's protection of free speech and established the standard to which a state or the federal government would be held when it criminalized speech or writing.




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