Bridges v. California (Times-Mirror Co. v. Superior Court of California) 314 U.S. 252; 62 S. Ct. 190; 86 L. Ed. 892 (1941)

Bridges v. California (Times-Mirror Co. v. Superior Court of California) 314 U.S. 252; 62 S. Ct. 190; 86 L. Ed. 892 (1941)

Facts—While a motion for a new trial was pending in a case involving a dispute between an AFL and a CIO union of which Bridges was an officer, he either caused to be published or acquiesced in the publication of a telegram which he had sent to the secretary of labor. The telegram referred to the judge’s decision as “outrageous,” said that its attempted enforcement would tie up the port of Los Angeles and involve the entire Pacific Coast, and con- cluded with the announcement that the CIO union did “not intend to allow state courts to override the majority vote of members in choosing its officers and representatives and to override the National Labor Relations Board.”

Newspaper editorials that commented on pending action before the same court were also involved. “The editorial thus distinguished was entitled ‘Probation for Gorillas’?” After vigorously denouncing two members of a labor union who had previously been found guilty of assaulting nonunion truck drivers, it closed with the observation: “Judge A. A. Scott will make a serious mistake if he grants probation to Matthew Shannon and Kennan Holmes. This community needs the example of their assignment to the jute mill.”

Both Bridges and the newspaper were cited for contempt and convicted.

Question—Do the convictions violate rights of free speech and due process as guaranteed by the First Amendment made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment?


ReasonsJ. Black (5–4). The telegram that Bridges sent to the secretary of labor criticizing the decision of the court was merely a statement of the facts that the secretary of labor was entitled to receive regarding an action that might result in a strike. “Again, we find exaggeration in the conclusion that the utterance even ‘tended’ to interfere with justice. If there was electricity in the atmosphere, it was generated by the facts; the charge added by the Bridges telegram can be dismissed as negligible.”

The influence of the editorials was likewise minimized by the Court: “This editorial, given the most intimidating construction it will bear, did no more than threaten future adverse criticism which was reasonably to be expected anyway in the event of a lenient disposition of the pending case. To regard it, therefore, as in itself of substantial influence upon the course of justice would be to impute to judges a lack of firmness, wisdom, or honor, which we cannot accept as a major premise.”

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