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Legal Brief of Schnech v. United States (1919) by David A.W. Hittle

Schnech v. United States

249 U.S. 47; 39 S.Ct. 247; 63 L.Ed. 470 (1919)

Vote 9-0


The Facts in this case are these: Charles T. Schnech the general secretary of the Socialist Party was convicted of “causing and attempting to cause insubordination in the military and naval forces of the United States. In violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, the conviction stemmed from the Socialist Parties printing and distributing leaflets attracting American participation in World War I and urging young men to oppose the military draft. Three charges were as follows: 1. Conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act of 1917, 2. By causing and attempting to cause insubordination in the military forces of the United States, and 3. Obstructing the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States while the U.S. was at war.


The Issues in this case are these: Was Mr. Schnech’s First Amendment rights violated?


The Holding in this case is as follows: by a vote of 9 to 0 the Court finds that the act of (speaking, or circulating a paper), the Court finds that Mr. Schnech in his actions did violate the Espionage Act of 1917, and that the conviction should be upheld.


Justice Holds opined for the 9 to 0 majority: He states “If seems to be admitted that if an actual obstruction of the recruiting service were proved, liability for the words that produced that effect right be enforced.” He goes on the say that the statute punished conspiracy to obstruct as well as actual the actual obstruction.” The Court finds that Mr. Schnech’s rights were not violated.


Significance: The court decides that Mr. Schnech’s obstruction of Recruiting, his actions in inspiring insubordination and the liability for his words were enough to convict.