Baird v. State Bar of Arizona

RESPONDENT: State Bar of Arizona
LOCATION: State Bar of Arizona Office

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: Arizona Supreme Court

CITATION: 401 US 1 (1971)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1969 / Dec 09, 1969
REARGUED: Oct 14, 1970
DECIDED: Feb 23, 1971
GRANTED: Apr 07, 1969

Mark Wilmer - for the respondent
Peter D. Baird - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Sara Baird graduated from law school at Stanford University in 1967 and passed the bar examination in Arizona. Among the questions asked by the Arizona Bar Committee, she answered Question 25, which requested that she list all of the organizations to which she has belonged since the age of 16. She declined to answer Question 27, which asked whether she “had ever been a member of the Communist party or any organization ‘that advocates overthrow of the United States Government by force or violence.’” Because she did not answer that question, the Committee did not process her application any further. The Arizona Supreme Court denied Baird’s petition for the Bar Committee to show cause why she should be denied admittance to the State Bar of Arizona.


Does the First Amendment protect against state inquiries into personal beliefs for the purpose of excluding a person from a profession?

Media for Baird v. State Bar of Arizona

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1969 (Part 2) in Baird v. State Bar of Arizona
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 14, 1970 in Baird v. State Bar of Arizona

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1969 (Part 1) in Baird v. State Bar of Arizona

Warren E. Burger:

Number 53, Baird against Arizona.

Mr. Baird.

Peter D. Baird:

Mr. Chief Justice may it please the Court.

My name is Peter Baird and I represent petitioner and this cause.

The case before you is on writ of certiorari to the Arizona Supreme Court and it concerns a refusal to admit petitioner to the practice of law in Arizona.

She has graduated from Stanford Law School, she has passed the bar examination and the refusal stands upon her refusal to completely fill out a questionnaire and affidavit prescribed by the Arizona rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona.

There are two particular questions that are involved in this case.

First is the question she did answer and this was question 25 and we set it for on page three of our brief.

This is and I quote, "List all organizations, associations and clubs other than bar associations of which you are or have been a member since attaining the age of 16 years."

This petitioner did, she listed each and every organization to which she has belonged.

The next question --

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Baird, I saw that in the brief and then I looked in the appendix and I found that the form in the questionnaire was there but I didn’t see the answers that she gave to that question or did any other question.

Peter D. Baird:

Mr. Justice Stewart, we do not have as part of the record the answers to the questions.

That is part of the committees’ files and they were not introduced so far as I know before at the Supreme Court.

Potter Stewart:

And how do we not then know so far as the record goes that she did fully answer question 25?

Peter D. Baird:

We alleged that in our verified petition before the Arizona Supreme Court and so far as I know this was not denied and the refusal to admit petitioner is expressly based by the committee upon her refusal to answer question 27, not question 25.

Question 27 reads as follows --

Potter Stewart:

I just think it just appears to me and maybe I'm quite wrong and in the course of your argument, maybe you’ll persuade me so, but that the validity of the refusal to answer question 27 might depend upon what answer was given to question 25 and we don’t know what answer was given to question 25.

Peter D. Baird:

That is true, as part of the record you do not know the names of the organizations to which she has belong which she did list.

Potter Stewart:

Well, I don’t want to throw you off here.

Peter D. Baird:

Her question, question 27 reads "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party or any organization that advocates, overthrow of the Untied States Government by force or violence."

There is --

Warren E. Burger:

Would you say that's one question or more than one question?

Peter D. Baird:

I would say Mr. Chief Justice that really is two questions, one which overlaps with the first question which she answered.

In other words the reference to communist party would show up in the question which she did answer.

If she had belonged to the communist party, it would have showed up in response to question 25 and there is no contention I might add parenthetically that any of those really is a communist party.

So the essence of her refusal goes to the requirement that she characterized.

The group she belonged to and listed in response to 25 as to whether they do advocate the overthrow of the government.

Warren E. Burger:

Your brief as I followed your arguments in the brief places a great deal of emphasizes on the invasion of the petitioners right of free political association but may I ask you this question?

Do you include the second half of that question that is the question addressed to whether there is membership in any organization advocating the overthrow by force of the government as an invasion of politically, constitutionally protected right to political association?