Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization
Decided on June 5, 1939; 307 US 496


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Freedom of speech and assembly

B. Legal Question Presented:

Are freedom to disseminate information concerning the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act and freedom to assemble peaceably for discussion of the Act, and of the opportunities and advantages offered by it, privileges or immunities of a citizen of the United States secured against State abridgment by Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Respondents brought suit in the US District court alleging that acting under a city ordinance forbidding the leasing of any hall, without a permit from the Chief of Police... the petitioners, and their subordinates, have denied respondents the right to hold lawful meetings in Jersey City on the ground that they are Communists or Communist organizations.

It further alleges that acting under an ordinance which forbids any person to 'distribute or cause to be distributed or strewn about any street or public place any newspapers, paper, periodical, book magazine, circular, card or pamphlet', the petitioners have... caused respondents, and those acting with them, to be arrested for distributing printed matter in the streets, and have caused them, and their associates, to be carried beyond the limits of the city or to remote places therein, and have compelled them to board ferry boats destined for New York; have, with violence and force, interfered with the distribution of pamphlets discussing the rights of citizens under the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. 151 et seq.

After trial upon the merits the District Court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and a decree in favor of respondents. The Circuit Court of Appeals concurred in the findings of fact; modified the decree in respect of one of its provisions, and, as modified, affirmed it."

On certiorari the Supreme Court modified the decree and affirmed.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Brief of amici curiae discussing the right of assembly was filed by the Committee on the Bill of Rights of the American Bar Association.

Morris L. Ernst and Spaulding Frazer, with Lee Pressman and Benjamin Kaplan argued the cause for the respondents.

Charles Hershenstein and Edward J. O'Mara with James A. Hamill and John A. Matthews argued the cause for the petitioners.


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Although it has been held that the Fourteenth Amendment created no rights in citizens of the United States, but merely secured existing rights against state abridgment, it is clear that the right peaceably to assemble and to discuss these topics, and to communicate respecting them, whether orally or in writing, is a privilege inherent in citizenship of the United States which the Amendment protects...

The privilege of a citizen of the United States to use the streets and parks for communication of views on national questions may be regulated in the interest of all; it is not absolute, but relative, and must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but it must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied...

We think the court below was right in holding the ordinance void upon its face... [because it can] be made the instrument of arbitrary suppression of free expression of views on national affairs... "

The Supreme Court modified the decree and affirmed the court of Appeals judgment.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 2 Con

  • Roberts, O. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stone, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion, wrote concurring opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined concurring opinion)
  • Hughes, C Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • McReynolds, J. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Butler, P. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Took no part in the decision
  • Douglas, W. Took no part in the decision
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as a party urged affirmance of the Court of Appeals' decree; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 5-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.