United States v. Congress of Industrial Organizations
Decided on June 21, 1948; 335 US 106


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

A. Issues Discussed: Freedom of expression

B. Legal Question Presented:

Is section 313 of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925, which prohibits "any labor organization to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with any election," in violation of the First Amendment?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

The Corrupt Practices Act, as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, prohibited labor unions from making financial contributions or expenditures in connection with any federal election. In its weekly periodical, C.I.O. published a letter from its president, urging union members to vote for a particular candidate for US Congress. C.I.O was indicted, but the District Court dismissed the indictment on the ground that the statute was in violation of the First Amendment.

On appeal the US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the District Court.

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)
Messrs. Charles J. Margiotti, of Pittsburgh, PA, and Lee Pressman, of Washington, DC, for appellees. Mr. Jesse Climenko, for appellant.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Members of unions paying dues and stockholders of corporations know of the practice of their respective organizations in regularly publishing periodicals. It would require explicit words in an act to convince us that Congress intended to bar a trade journal, a house organ or a newspaper, published by a corporation, from expressing views on candidates or political proposals in the regular course of its publication. It is unduly stretching language to say that the members or stockholders are unwilling participants in such normal organizational activities, including the advocacy thereby of governmental policies affecting their interests, and the support thereby of candidates thought to be favorable to their interests...

We are unwilling to say that Congress by its prohibition against corporations or labor organizations making an 'expenditure in connection with any election' of candidates for federal office intended to outlaw such a publication. We do not think 313 reaches such a use of corporate or labor organization funds."

The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the District Court without addressing the question of whether the prohibition was unconstitutional.

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

    The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the judgment of the District Court; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.