Bryson v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: 17th Judicial Circuit Green County Alabama Jury Commission

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 396 US 64 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1969
DECIDED: Dec 08, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Bryson v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1969 in Bryson v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

Number 35, Gladstein against -- excuse me, Bryson against the United States.

Richard Gladstein:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please --

Warren E. Burger:

If you’ll just wait one moment Mr. Gladstein until counsel gets clear.

Now, you may proceed.

Richard Gladstein:

Thank you, Your Honor.

May it please the Court.

This case brings into question, the constitutionality of Section 9 (h) of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

That Act provided in substance that before a labor union could resort to the facilities of the National Labor Relations Board.

Each of its officers most annually signed in filing non-Communist affidavit.

The constitutionality of that statute was upheld in 1950 in the case of American Communications Association against Douds.

The chief opinion was written by Chief Justice Vinson in which two other members of the court concurred, Justices Frankfurter and Jackson wrote separate opinions, concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Mr. Justice Black dissented on a number of grounds including explicitly an expression of his view of Section 9 (h) was a bill of attainder and therefore violated the Article I Section 9 of the Constitution.

Congress, it appears was not satisfied with its experience under Section 9 (h) and 12 years after its passage, nine years after this Court was persuaded to sustain it.

The Congress have repealed that law and replaced it with Section 504 of the Labor Management Relations Act.

That Section provided that it was a crime for a man simultaneously to hold union office and to be a member of the Communist Party.

That statute was held unconstitutional by this Court in United States against Archie Brown, 1965 in an opinion written by the Chief Justice, four other members of the Court concurring in the opinion on the expressed ground of Section 504 was unconstitutional bill of attainder.

One of the questions certified in this case is whether in the comparative light of American Communications Association versus doubts and United States versus Brown, Section 9 (h) is constitutional.

Let me say a few words about the background of this case in order to put the other two certified questions in perspective.

Petitioner here was one time the president of a small maritime labor union numbering some 3,000 members who served on vessels plying in and out of Pacific Coast Port in the Steward’s Department of those ships.

In 1951, he signed and filed the affidavit as required -- that was required at the time under Taft-Hartley law.

The union was and had been for some time engaged in the bitter jurisdictional dispute which ultimately led to the dissolution of the organization itself.

Now, the affidavit that he filed was a printed form.

But the Labor Board supplied and it recited three basic things.

It recited that the files at the time he signed did not then support any organization that advocated the overthrow of the Government by force, violation or other unconstitutional or illegal means.

It provided second that he said he was then not a member of the Communist Party specifically naming the Communist Party in the second portion.

It provided third, that he was not then affiliate for the Communist Party.

In 1954, almost three yeas after the filing of the 1951 affidavit although I should state that in 1952 Bryson filed the affidavit.

He did the same in 1953 and again in 1954 if my memory served me correctly, even after he was indicted on the 1951 affidavit.

He was charged in the indictment with three counts of violation, all three of the portions that I have mentioned

.Prior to the trial, the Government dismissed the count that charged him of supporting an organization that advocated the overthrow of the Government.