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Wieman v. Updegraff
Decided on Dec. 15, 1952; 344 US 183


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

A. Issues Discussed: Due Process

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does the Due Process Clause permit a state, in attempting to bar disloyal individuals from its employ, to exclude persons solely on the basis of organizational membership, regardless of their knowledge concerning the organizations to which they had belonged?
II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"This is an appeal from a decision of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma upholding the validity of a loyalty oath prescribed by Oklahoma statute for all state officers and employees. Appellants, employed by the State as members of the faculty and staff of Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, failed, within the thirty days permitted, to take the oath required by the Act. Appellee Updegraff, as a citizen and taxpayer, thereupon brought this suit in the District Court of Oklahoma County to enjoin the necessary state officials from paying further compensation to employees who had not subscribed to the oath. The appellants, who were permitted to intervene, attacked the validity of the Act on the grounds, among others, that it was a bill of attainder; an ex post facto law; impaired the obligation of their contracts with the State and violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They also sought a mandatory injunction directing the state officers to pay their salaries regardless of their failure to take the oath. Their objections centered largely on the following clauses of the oath:

'..That I am not affiliated directly or indirectly... with any foreign political agency, party, organization or Government, or with any agency, party, organization, association, or group whatever which has been officially determined by the United States Attorney General or other authorized agency of the United States to be a communist front or subversive organization;... that I will take up arms in the defense of the United States in time of War, or National Emergency, if necessary; that within the five (5) years immediately preceding the taking of this oath (or affirmation) I have not been a member of... any agency, party, organization, association, or group whatever which has been officially determined by the United States Attorney General or other authorized public agency of the United States to be a communist front or subversive organization...'

The court upheld the Act and enjoined the state officers from making further salary payments to appellants. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma affirmed..."

On appeal the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

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)
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union by Osmond K. Fraenkel.

H. D. Emery argued the cause for appellants. With him on the brief was Robert J. Emery.

Fred Hansen, First Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma, argued the cause for the Board of Regents of the Oklahoma Agricultural Colleges et al., appellees. With him on the brief was Mac Q. Williamson, Attorney General.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"The purpose of the Act, we are told, 'was to make loyalty a qualification to hold public office or be employed by the State.' During periods of international stress, the extent of legislation with such objectives accentuates our traditional concern about the relation of government to the individual in a free society. The perennial problem of defining that relationship becomes acute when disloyalty is screened by ideological patterns and techniques of disguise that make it difficult to identify. Democratic government is not powerless to meet this threat, but it must do so without infringing the freedoms that are the ultimate values of all democratic living. In the adoption of such means as it believes effective, the legislature is therefore confronted with the problem of balancing its interest in national security with the often conflicting constitutional rights of the individual....

...[Does] the Due Process Clause permits a state, in attempting to bar disloyal individuals from its employ, to exclude persons solely on the basis of organizational membership, regardless of their knowledge concerning the organizations to which they had belonged. For, under the statute before us, the fact of membership alone disqualifies. If the rule be expressed as a presumption of disloyalty, it is a conclusive one.

But membership may be innocent. A state servant may have joined a proscribed organization unaware of its activities and purposes. In recent years, many completely loyal persons have severed organizational ties after learning for the first time of the character of groups to which they had belonged.... At the time of affiliation, a group itself may be innocent, only later coming under the influence of those who would turn it toward illegitimate ends. Conversely, an organization formerly subversive and therefore designated as such may have subsequently freed itself from the influences which originally led to its listing.

There can be no dispute about the consequences visited upon a person excluded from public employment on disloyalty grounds. In the view of the community, the stain is a deep one; indeed, it has become a badge of infamy. Especially is this so in time of cold war and hot emotions when 'each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy.' Yet under the Oklahoma Act, the fact of association alone determines disloyalty and disqualification; it matters not whether association existed innocently or knowingly. To thus inhibit individual freedom of movement is to stifle the flow of democratic expression and controversy at one of its chief sources.... Indiscriminate classification of innocent with knowing activity must fall as an assertion of arbitrary power. The oath offends due process."

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

Justice Vote: 8 Pro vs. 0 Con
  • Clark, T. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Wrote consenting opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Wrote consenting opinion)
  • Minton, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Took no part in the decision
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus, urged reversal of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma's judgment; the Supreme Court reversed in an 8-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.