From our private database of 12,700+ case briefs...
Federal Communications Commn. v. Pacifica Foundation
United States Supreme Court
438 U.S. 726 (1978)
A satiric humorist named George Carlin recorded a twelve-minute monologue entitled “Filthy Words” before a live audience in California. The monologue included “words you couldn’t say on the public airwaves,” and proceeded to repeat those words over and over again in a variety of colloquialisms. A New York radio station owned by Pacifica Foundation (Pacifica) (plaintiff) broadcasted the “Filthy Words” monologue. A few weeks later, a man who stated that he had heard the broadcast while driving with his young son, wrote a letter complaining to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (defendant). Pacifica responded to the complaint by stating that the broadcast constituted harmless satire and not obscenity. Additionally, Pacifica noted that before the broadcast aired, a warning message was issued noting that the broadcast might contain material that was offensive to some people. The FCC held Pacifica liable for administrative sanctions. The FCC derived its power to regulate indecent broadcasting under two statutes: 18 U.S.C. §1464, which forbade the use of “any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communications,” and 47 U.S.C. §303(g), which required the FCC to “encourage the larger and more effective use of radio in the public interest.” Pacifica challenged the FCC order in federal district court on First Amendment grounds. The district court upheld the FCC’s ruling, but the court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 119,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 12,700 briefs, keyed to 172 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.