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Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s voting record in free-speech cases

Compiled by Ronald K.L. Collins
First Amendment scholar


Years on the Supreme Court: 29 (Dec. 1902 - Jan. 1932)
Number of free-speech cases in which Holmes voted: 26
Number of free-speech opinions authored: 12
Number of free-speech majority opinions authored: 6
Number of free-speech dissenting opinions: 6
Total Supreme Court votes sustaining free-speech claim: 13
Total Supreme Court votes denying free-speech claim: 13
Votes sustaining free-speech claims after Debs v. United States: 10 out of 12 cases

The list of cases below indicates how Justice Holmes voted in free-speech cases (not all of which were First Amendment cases) during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

Holmes' free-speech cases
U.S. ex rel Turner v. Williams (1904) Denied
Halter v. Nebraska (1907) Denied
Patterson v. Colorado (1907) Denied ++
Peck v. Tribune Co. (1909) Denied ++
Gompers v. Buck’s Stove & Range Co. (1911) Sustained *
Gandia v. Pettingill (1911) Sustained ++
Lewis Publishing Co. v. Morgan (1913) Denied
Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Commission of Ohio (1915) Denied
Fox v. Washington (1915) Denied ++
Toledo Newspaper Co. v. U.S. (1918) Sustained +
Sugarman v. United States (1919) Denied
Schenck v. United States (1919) Denied ++
Frohwerk v. United States (1919) Denied ++
Debs v. United States (1919) Denied ++
Abrams v. United States (1919) Sustained +
Schafer v. United States (1920) Sustained
Pierce v. United States (1920) Sustained
Gilbert v. Minnesota (1920) Denied
U.S. ex rel Milwaukee Social Democratic Publishing Co. v. Burleson (1921) Sustained +
Leach v. Carlile (1922) Sustained +
Gitlow v. New York (1925) Sustained +
Whitney v. California (1927) Denied
Fiske v. Kansas (1927) Sustained *
New York ex rel Bryant v. Zimmerman (1928) Sustained
United States v. Schwimmer (1929) Sustained +
Stromberg v. California (1931) Sustained

++ Indicates authorship of majority opinion.
+ Indicates authorship of dissenting opinion.
* Indicates unanimous judgment. Only “sustained” cases are noted.


As Justice Holmes said …

Compiled by Ronald K.L. Collins Selected quotations by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. on free speech, related matters. 05.21.08

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