Talley v. California

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Talley v. California
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued January 13–14, 1960
Decided March 7, 1960
Full case nameTalley v. California
Citations362 U.S. 60 (more)
80 S. Ct. 536; 4 L. Ed. 2d 559; 1960 U.S. LEXIS 1948
The distribution of anonymous handbills is protected by the First Amendment.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · Felix Frankfurter
William O. Douglas · Tom C. Clark
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Charles E. Whittaker · Potter Stewart
Case opinions
MajorityBlack, joined by Warren, Douglas, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart
DissentClark, joined by Frankfurter, Whittaker
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States voided a Los Angeles city ordinance which forbade the distribution of any handbills in any place under any circumstances if the handbills did not contain the name and address of the person for whom it was prepared, distributed, or sponsored.

Talley is often cited for the proposition that identification requirements burden speech.

The Importance of Anonymous Speech[edit]

Talley v. California is notable for its exposition on anonymous speech. While looking at the historical applications of anonymous speech, the court points to two uses in particular that influenced their decision.

  1. Fear of Retaliation - Speaking anonymously protects those that criticize oppressive practices from the oppressors.
  2. Focus on the Message - Listeners focus on the message rather than the messenger when speech is anonymous.


Although the dissent also saw the important protections of anonymous speech, it did not see any danger in this particular instance. The right to speak anonymously had to weigh against the benefit of the public knowing the author. As the dissent saw no evidence that any harm would come to Talley by revelation of his identity, the public knowledge outweighed Talley's right to anonymous speech.

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