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Abstract

Plaintiffs, prominent television and radio commentators, were compelled to pay union dues and join the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) as a condition precedent to their public broadcasts. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that this union shop requirement had a "chilling effect" upon the exercise of free speech and thus violated the first amendment. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in plaintiffs' favor and declared that any provisions requiring plaintiffs to become members of AFTRA, pay dues, and comply with any regulations incident thereto were void and of no effect. The court recognized that prior restraints upon constitutionally protected speech could not be sustained in the absence of a competing and compelling necessity. It concluded that the requirements of joining the union and paying dues were prior restraints on the exercise of rights under the first amendment and that it was inconsistent with the amendment for Congress to force someone to agree in advance to such a limitation. The district court noted that these principles are especially applicable to a discussion of public affairs. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed, finding that there was no derogation of plaintiffs' constitutionally protected rights of free speech. The Supreme Court denied certiorari.

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