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United States v. O’Brien

United States Supreme Court
391 U.S. 367 (1968)


Facts

In 1966, David Paul O’Brien and three others (defendants) burned their Selective Service registration certificates on the steps of the South Boston Courthouse. O’Brien was indicted by the United States Government (plaintiff), and convicted by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The indictment charged that he “willfully and knowingly did mutilate, destroy, and change by burning his Registration Certificate” in violation of the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1948 (UMTSA), as amended in 1965. That act made it a crime for a person to forge, alter, knowingly destroy, knowingly mutilate, or in any manner change such a certificate. O’Brien appealed his conviction, and the court of appeals reversed on the grounds that the UMTSA violated the First Amendment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Warren, C.J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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