Levy was in the Army. He made
a number of statements to other soldiers about the Vietnam War and
suggested that soldiers refuse orders to go to Vietnam.
He also referred to Special
Forces soldiers as "liars and thieves," "killers of
peasants," and "murderers of women and children."
Levy was court-martialed and
sentenced to 3 years in military prison. He appealed.
Levy argued that he had a
constitutional right to free speech
under the 1st Amendment and that the Statutes he
was convicted under (U.C.M.J. 90, 133, 134) were unconstitutional.
Those three sections
prohibit "willful disobedience a lawful command,"
"conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," and "all
disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in
the armed forces" respectively.
Levy also argued that the UCMJ provisions were too vague, and that was a
violation of the Due Process Clause of the 5th
The Trial Court upheld the
conviction. Levy appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed
the conviction. The Army appealed.
The Appellate Court found
that the UCMJ provisions were too
vague to be constitutional.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and upheld the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that the UCMJ provisions were not
too vague as to be a violation of due process.
The Court noted that while
the words in the provisions were vague, they had been narrowed by the
courts and many specific examples were available.
Plus, Levy should have
known that telling solders to disobey orders was a violation of
The Court found that the UCMJ provisions were not a violation of the 1st
The Court recognized that while
soldiers "are not excluded from 1st Amendment protection, the fundamental necessity for
obedience, and the consequent necessity for discipline, may render
permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally
impermissible outside it."
So basically, the Court
was saying that in certain situations where the government has a
special need to maintain order (the army, schools, prisons), there are
reduced 1st Amendment