Bridges v. Wixon, District Director, I.N.S.
Decided on June 18, 1945; 326 US 135


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

A. Issues Discussed: Immigration, due process

B. Legal Question Presented:

Was Petitioner sufficiently "affiliated" with the Communist party within the meaning of the Immigration Act of 1918, which provides for the deportation of any aliens who "are members of or affiliated with any organization that believes in the overthrow by force of the government of the United States," to warrant his deportation?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Petitioner came from Australia in 1920. He worked as a longshorman. "In 1933 he became active in trade union work on the water front in San Francisco." He was eventually elected Pacific Coast district President of the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union. "In 1938 deportation proceedings were instituted against [Petitioner] on the ground that he both had been and then was a member of or affiliated with the Communist Party of the United States and that that party advised and taught the overthrow by force of the government of the United States..." The first deportation proceedings were dropped and a second deportation proceedings were instituted after Congress amended the statute "so as to provide for deportation of any alien who was 'at the time of entering the United States, or has been at any time thereafter' a member of or affiliated with an organization of the character attributed to the Communist Party in the first proceeding." Deportation was recommended after the second hearing.

The petitioner "surrendered himself to the custody of respondent and challenged the legality of his detention by a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court for the Northern District of California. That court denied the petition and remanded petitioner to the custody of Respondent. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed by a divided vote."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals.

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)
Messrs. Richard Gladstein, of San Francisco, Cal., and Lee Pressman, of Washington, DC, for petitioner. Sol. Gen. Fahy, of Washington, DC, for respondent.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The associations which Harry Bridges had with various Communist groups seem to indicate no more than cooperative measures to attain objectives which were wholly legitimate. The link by which it is sought to tie him to subversive activities is an exceedingly tenuous one, if it may be said to exist at all..."

The Attorney General sustained the inspector's findings that Petitioner sponsored and was responsible for the publication of the "Waterfron Worker," a publication launched by marine Workers' Industrial Union (MWIU), a "proscribed organization." But the US Supreme court found that "when the evidence underlying these findings is examined it is found to be devoid of any showing that the Waterfront Worker advocated overthrow of the government by force... Nor is there any finding that Bridges took over this project with the view of doing more than advancing the lawful cause of unionism...

Since [Petitioner] has been ordered deported on a misconstruction of the term 'affiliation' as used in the statute and by reason of an unfair hearing on the question of his membership in the Communist party, his detention under the warrant is unlawful." The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Vote: 5 Pro vs. 3 Con

  • Douglas, W.Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stone, H. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Roberts, O. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Took no part in the decision
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals; the Supreme Court reversed in a 5-3 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.