Hill et al. v. State of Florida ex rel. Watson, Attorney General
Decided on June 11, 1945; 325 US 538


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

A. Issues Discussed: Equal protection, labor union

B. Legal Question Presented:

Has the Florida statute, which regulates labor union activities, been applied to the Petitioners in a manner which brings it into irreconcilable conflict with the collective bargaining regulations of the National Labor Relations Act?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"The Attorney General of Florida... sought to restrain [Petitioner Union and its businees agent, Hill], from functioning as such until they had complied with the Florida statute. The basis for the relief sought against Hill was that he had for a pecuniary reward acted as a business agent in violation of Section 4; the basis for the relief sought against the union was that it had operated without obtaining a state license as required by Section 6... Application for a license as a 'business agent' must be accompanied by a $1.00 fee and a statement signed by officers of the union setting forth the agent's authority. The statute then provides that the application be held for 30 days to permit the filing of objections to the issuance of a license...

Motions by Hill and the union to dismiss the bill on the ground that the state statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment and conflicted with the Wagner Act were denied. Answers were then filed admitting violations of Sections 4 and 6. The court held the licensing and reporting provisions valid. Hill was enjoined from further acting as the union's business agent until he obtained a state license. The union was enjoined from further functioning and operating until it made the report and paid the fee to the Secretary of State. The State Supreme Court affirmed."

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)

Mrssrs. Joseph A. Padway and Herbert S. Thatcher, both of Washington, DC, for petitioners.

Messrs. J. Tom Watson and Howard S. Bailey, both of Tallahassee, Fla., for respondent.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"We hold that Section 4 of the Florida Act is repugnant to the National Labor Relations Act. Section 68 as here applied, stands no better. The requirement as to the filing of information and the payment of a $1.00 annual fee does not, in and of itself, conflict with the Federal Act. But for failure to comply, this union has been enjoined from functioning as a labor union. It could not without violating the injunction and also subjecting itself to the possibility of criminal punishment even attempt to bargain to settle a controversy or a strike. It is the sanction here imposed, and not the duty to report, which brings about a situation inconsistent with the federally protected process of collective bargaining... This is true because if the union or its representatives acted as bargaining agents without making the required reports, presumably they would be liable both to punishment for contempt of court and to conviction under the misdemeanor section of the act. Such an obstacle to collective bargaining cannot be created consistently with the Federal Act. "

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

Justice Vote: 7 Pro vs. 2 Con

  • Black, H.Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Stone, H. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, f. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Roberts, O. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida; the Supreme Court reversed in a 7-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win .