Taylor v. State of Mississippi
Decided on June 14, 1943; 319 US 583


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

A. Issues Discussed: Free speech

B. Legal Question Presented:

Were Appellants' convictions under the Mississippi statute which regulates "disloyalty to the government of the United States, or the state of Mississippi" by, notably, precluding activities which "reasonably tend to create an attitude of stubborn refusal to salute, honor or respect the flag or government of the United States, or of the state of Mississippi," erroneous?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

All three Appellants were convicted, under a Mississippi statute, for "distributing literature and printed matter designed and calculated, and which reasonably tended to create an attitude of stubborn refusal to salute, honor, and respect the flag and government of the United States and the State of Mississippi."

Appellants appealed the Supreme Court of Mississippi claiming that "the Act abridged freedom of press and of speech and is so vague, indefinite, and uncertain as to furnish no reasonably ascertainable standard of guilt."

The Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the convictions. The US Supreme Court reversed.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Mr. Hayden C. Covington, of Brooklyn, N.Y., for appellants. Mr. George T. Ethridge, Asst. Atty. Gen., of Mississippi, for appellee.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The statute as construed in these cases makes it a criminal offense to communicate to others views and opinions respecting governmental policies, and prophesies concerning the future of our own and other nations. As applied to the appellants it punishes them although what they communicated is not claimed or shown to have been done with an evil or sinister purpose, to have advocated or incited subversive action against the nation or state, or to have threatened any clear and present danger to our institutions or our government. What these appellants communicated were their beliefs and opinions concerning domestic measures and trends in national and world affairs. Under our decisions criminal sanctions cannot be imposed for such communication."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con
 
  • Roberts, O. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Stone, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

    The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgments of the Supreme Court of Mississippi; the Supreme Court reversed in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.