Cardona v. Power

LOCATION: Where Penn was killed

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 384 US 672 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1966
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Cardona v. Power

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1966 in Cardona v. Power

Earl Warren:

Number 673, Martha Cardona, Appellant versus James M. Power et al.

Gentlemen, we will proceed till -- until three o'clock at least.

Paul O'Dwyer:

Chief Justice, members of the Court.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Dwyer -- O'Dwyer.

Paul O'Dwyer:

I think it might be well at the outset to give some facts surrounding the history of literacy test in the 19 states where they are in existence.

We've had the problem previously.

One of the counsel who just addressed you stated and gave the outline and the background of the enactments in both Massachusetts and Connecticut and I may say that the history of literate -- of literacy test indicate that in practically every state where they exist, they were -- they were determining a right to exclude people from voting rather than as qualifications for voting.

I must say that I was somewhat surprised to hear the literacy tests that the statute in New York prescribed as benign by comparison with the others.

I may say that it was enacted in 1922 at a time when there was absolutely no necessity to enact a literacy test with respect to native born New Yorkers.

They'd had a school system at that time for almost a century.

Many attempts had been made previously in the State of New York to enact literacy test.

In the convention of 1848, they almost got one through but there were too many people that were talking Dutch in the State at that time so consequently, they weren't able to put it across.

1915, they tried it in 1917, it was successful.

The lady who appeared here talked about the fact that it was meant for the purpose of attempting to saying the people of New York who are not conversing with English in the industrial plants and that it had for its purpose assisting in many other ways.

I may say to that the history of the hearings more or less belies that.

I am turning to the brief of the American-Jewish Congress at page 27 to read some of the things were said at that time.

Mr. -- one of the arguments presented on behalf of it is as follows.

More precious even than forms of Government or the mental qualities of our race by those stand on impaired all are safe.

They're exposed to a single danger and that is by constantly changing our voting citizenship through the wholesale but valuable and necessary infusion of Southern and Eastern European races.

The danger has begun, we should check it.

That was on the one side proposing the change.

On the other was Senator Wagner, obviously, that proposal is directed against the foreign born American.

Remembering that the great mass of foreigners that come annually to our shores are simulated into and become part and parcel of the American people because they strive and hope and succeed in acquiring the right to vote.

You cannot recognize in the amendment, a clandestine effort to prevent this assimilation of alien blood without citizenship and to segregate and exclude the foreigner from the rights, the privileges, and the opportunities which we have always held out to all men.

I may say that at that very --

Potter Stewart:

I should think the effect whatever the -- whatever the rhetoric was and I've seen in your brief, there was some rhetoric along racial lines and the lines of bigotry but I see the effect would be an effect of assimilation into American society rather than the dissimilation?

Paul O'Dwyer:

Whatever -- whatever the end result was, I am speaking here to the point of the polluted origin of the legislation in the first instance.

It was at that time that five elected assemblymen were prevented from being seated in the New York State Legislature and a hearing of the type which has never before happen in the State of New York or anywhere else followed it.

It was in the middle of this type of hysteria that this enactment was passed.

It was condemned by Governor Smith.