Patterson v. Colorado - Wikipedia

Patterson v. Colorado
Argued March 5, 1907
Decided April 15, 1907
Full case namePatterson v. Colorado
Citations205 U.S. 454 (more)
27 S. Ct. 556; 51 L. Ed. 879
The First Amendment's purpose is to guard against prior restraints, not to prevent punishment of publications that may harm public welfare.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Melville Fuller
Associate Justices
John M. Harlan · David J. Brewer
Edward D. White · Rufus W. Peckham
Joseph McKenna · Oliver W. Holmes Jr.
William R. Day · William H. Moody
Case opinions
MajorityHolmes, joined by Fuller, White, Peckham, McKenna, Day, Moody
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I

Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U.S. 454 (1907), was a First Amendment case. Before 1919, the primary legal test used in the United States to determine if speech could be criminalized was the bad tendency test.[1] Rooted in English common law, the test permitted speech to be outlawed if it had a tendency to harm public welfare.[1] One of the earliest cases the Supreme Court heard addressing punishment after material was published was 1907's Patterson v. Colorado in which the Court used the bad tendency test to uphold contempt charges against a newspaper publisher who accused Colorado judges of acting on behalf of local utility companies.[1][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rabban, pp 132–134, 190–199.
  2. ^ Before 1907, most free speech issues addressed prior restraint rather than punishment after speaking.


  • Rabban, David, Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 9780521655378

External links[edit]