Essay: The Fighting Words Doctrine: Alive and Well in the Lower Courts

20 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021

Date Written: 2020


The fighting words doctrine is alive and well in the lower courts. The first part of this article briefly explains how the fighting words doctrine has fared in the U.S. Supreme Court. These results would seem to indicate that it would be rare indeed for a defendant’s words to fall under the fighting words exception. That is not always the case. The next part of this article provides a sampling of decisions in which lower courts have rejected First Amendment-based defenses to disorderly conduct, breach of the peace, or similar charges based on the fighting words doctrine. The final part of the essay then explains the specific factors or facts that cause lower courts to find that certain expression constitutes unprotected fighting words rather than protected speech.

Keywords: Fighting Words Doctrine, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), First Amendment

Suggested Citation

Hudson, David L., Essay: The Fighting Words Doctrine: Alive and Well in the Lower Courts (2020). University of New Hampshire Law Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2020, 19 U.N.H. L. Rev. 1 (2020), Belmont University College of Law Research Paper No. 2021-1, Available at SSRN:

David L. Hudson (Contact Author)

Belmont University - College of Law ( email )

1900 Belmont Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37212
United States

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