American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born v. Subversive Activities Control Board

PETITIONER: American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born
RESPONDENT: Subversive Activities Control Board
LOCATION: Longshore and Warehouse Union

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 380 US 503 (1965)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1964 / Dec 09, 1964
DECIDED: Apr 26, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born v. Subversive Activities Control Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1964 in American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born v. Subversive Activities Control Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1964 in American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born v. Subversive Activities Control Board

Earl Warren:

Number 44, American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, Petitioner, versus Subversive Activities Control Board.

Mr. Terris, you may continue your argument.

Bruce J. Terris:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The outset I'd like to point out an error in the Government's brief.

The Government does not now claim that the Board found the petitioner actually arose on the international legal defense in 1932 or 1933, this -- an organization which had its headquarters in Moscow.

While there was considerable evidence indicating this fact, we have overlooked contrary evidence and we think, as the petitioner thinks, that the Board deliberately did not resolve this conflict in the evidence.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Where is that in your brief, Mr. Terris?

Bruce J. Terris:

Well, it appears in the statement we put -- but it also appears at various points during the discussion of the evidentiary questions in several places.

But it's -- I think it's first on page 4 and the footnote on page 4 is where our reasoning, yes in our brief, it's where our reasoning was.

The Board clearly didn't explicitly find it and we thought that it had implicitly found it and we agree with the petitioner that probably even that is not so.

Now, I'd like you to turn to Mr. Justice Goldberg's question yesterday as to the meaning of the aid component of the statute more explicitly whether it requires directly aimed at forcible overthrow of the Government or advocating forcible overthrow of the Government.

I think I mentioned yesterday that we started from the proposition that Section 3 (4) on its face strongly looks the Government's way because it says that all the Government need to show, to show that an organization is a Communist-front is that it operates primarily for the purpose of giving aid and support to a Communist-action organization, a Communist Party.

On its face, all that it requires is aid and support and not aid and support of any particular kind of or for any particular purpose of the Communist-action organization.

And this is supported by Section 2 (7) which describes Communist-fronts as organizations which conceal the facts as to their true character and their purpose in order to obtain support from persons who would not otherwise give it.

We think it's quite clear that if it was directly aiding overthrow of the Government or advocating overthrow of the Government, not many non-Communists would be in any doubt as to the control of the organization or to its purpose and therefore it would not fulfill this description.

Now, petitioner points to the beginning, the first phrase of 2 (7) that says, well the reason that the Communist-action organization is doing this, setting up Communist-fronts as to aid its objectives under Section 2 (6) and these are forcible overthrow of the Government.

Well, that's of course exactly the point that I was making yesterday.

But this is exactly why they setup Communist-fronts but it doesn't mean that Communist-fronts themselves advocate overthrow of the Government or directly aid overthrow of the Government.

They do other more immediate things.

And I think this is if -- the legislative history of this statute is extremely lengthy, but I think out of the reading of the -- the both -- both the testimony of the congressional hearings and the debate on the floor of Congress on the prompt provisions is quite clear that what they were aiming at is organizations which are seemingly harmless that seem like the organizations defending the Bill of Rights or civil liberties or the rights of farmers or labor but in fact are controlled by the Communist Party and are in fact are aiding it.

There's no indication whatsoever that as to Communist-fronts, they are -- that the -- that Congress believed that they directly advocated overthrow of the Government.

And I may say that that distinction is also clear in the committee report which petitioner's counsel cited to you yesterday.

All that says is that the Congress was not aiming a mere theoretical problem.

It was aiming at a problem that was a serious danger to this country.

Of course that -- and that again is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday that if the Communist Party was just interested in abstract Marxism, the statute would not have been passed.

Do you think that the part of saying is to involve or to have itself engaged, as part of the record, is that the original Communist-action definition?

Bruce J. Terris:

Well, Your Honor, I don't -- I don't think you would.

I think, an argue could have been made if the Communist-fronts provisions weren't in the statute at all.

That the definition of organization in the statute is so broad that it could have covered Communist-fronts.

The difficulty is that I think it's quite clear by putting in Communist-fronts that the Congress wanted to deal with this type of organization under the Communist-front provisions.