JUDICIARY: When the Time Is Ripe

Probably no judicial phrase in recent years has caused more confusion than the late Justice Holmes's famed rubric that free speech is dangerous only when it constitutes "a clear and present danger" to U.S. security.

For years, squatting behind the rock of the First Amendment (free speech), and insisting blithely that they were a danger to no one, U.S. Communists had screamed their denunciations and thumbed their noses at U.S. democracy. Last week Judge Learned Hand ruled flatly that Communism is a "clear and present danger."

Chief judge of the U.S. court of appeals in New York and generally regarded by...

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