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Golden v. Zwickler

394 U.S. 103, 89 S. Ct. 956, 22 L. Ed. 2d 113 (1969)

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Golden v. Zwickler

United States Supreme Court

394 U.S. 103, 89 S. Ct. 956, 22 L. Ed. 2d 113 (1969)

Facts

In 1964 Sanford Zwickler (defendant) anonymously distributed a flyer criticizing a congressman running for reelection for not supporting proposed amendments to the 1964 Foreign Aid bill. Zwickler was convicted in state court of violating New York Penal Law § 781-b, which made it a crime for a person to circulate anonymous literature in connection with an election. Zwickler’s conviction was reversed, and the New York Court of Appeals held that the constitutionality of § 781-b needed to be decided. Zwickler filed a lawsuit in federal district court, seeking a declaratory judgment that § 781-b was an unconstitutional violation of his freedom of speech. In his complaint, Zwickler explained that he believed that the congressman would run for reelection again and stated that when the congressman did run for reelection, he would distribute anonymous fliers again. The federal district court granted a declaratory judgment. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court held that the district court erred by failing to determine whether Zwickler had satisfied the prerequisites necessary for declaratory judgment and remanded the case to the district court. While the litigation was pending, the congressman left office and became a justice on the New York Supreme Court. On remand, the district court conducted a short hearing and determined, without taking any testimony on the issue, that the facts alleged in Zwickler’s complaint satisfied the prerequisites for declaratory judgment. The district court explained that even though the congressman was no longer in public office and was unlikely to run for office again, Zwickler’s case was not moot when he initiated it. The district court further explained that Zwickler had a continued interest in knowing whether § 781-b was unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari again to determine whether Zwickler had satisfied the prerequisites for declaratory judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)

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