The Law School Authority

Boos v. Barry Case Brief

Summary of Boos v. Barry
485 U.S. 312 (1988)

Facts: District of Columbia Code § 22-1115 (Code) prohibited anyone from displaying signs within 500 feet of a foreign embassy that tend to bring the foreign government into public odium or public disrepute.  Also, the Code prohibits any congregation of three or mor persons within 500 feet of a foreign embassy.

Issue: Is the display clause of the code constitutional?  Is the congregation clause constitutional?

Holding: No, Yes

Test: The Court applied the strict scrutiny test where the speech is constitutional only if it serves a compelling state interest and it is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.

Rationale: The display clause is content-based restriction because it prohibits one whole set of speech (speech that is against foreign governments).  Therefore, the display clause is a content-based restriction on political speech in a public forum and it is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest because a different law is applied to protect foreign officials in other parts of the country and that law is constitutional.  The congregation clause is constitutional because the Court of Appeals has given it a narrower interpretation where congregation is prohibited only when the police reasonably believe that a threat to the security or peace of the embassy is present.



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