Communist Party of the United States v. Subversive Activities Control Board

PETITIONER: Communist Party of the United States
RESPONDENT: Subversive Activities Control Board
LOCATION: District Court of Massachusetts

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 367 US 1 (1961)
ARGUED: Oct 11, 1960 / Oct 12, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Communist Party of the United States v. Subversive Activities Control Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 12, 1960 in Communist Party of the United States v. Subversive Activities Control Board
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 1960 (Part 2) in Communist Party of the United States v. Subversive Activities Control Board

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 1960 (Part 1) in Communist Party of the United States v. Subversive Activities Control Board

Earl Warren:

Number 12, Communist Party of the United States, Petitioner, versus Subversive Activities Control Board.

Mr. Abt, you may proceed.

John J. Abt:

Thank you, Your Honor.

May it please the Court.

This case presents for review a decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirming an order of the Subversive Activities Control Board that the petitioner register as a Communist-action organization under Section 7 of the Subversive Activities Control Act.

The Act was passed over the presence veto in September 1950, shortly after the outbreak of war in Korea.

The order of the Board was issued in April 1953 after a hearing on a petition by the Attorney General and was accompanied by a report in which the Board stated its findings as to the facts.

On the first review, the Court of Appeals held the Act constitutional and affirmed the Board's order.

Judge Bazelon dissented holding the Act unconstitutional because it violates the privilege against self-incrimination.

This Court refers to 1956 without reaching any of the other questions presented because of the denial below of the petitioners' motion for leave to adduce evidence that three witnesses called by the Attorney General for perjury.

Upon the remand of the case to the Board, the Attorney General did not contest the petitioners' allegations of perjury.

Accordingly, the Board expunged the testimony of these three witnesses.

After further proceedings, the Board issued a modified report and a recommendation that its order be affirmed.

On the second review in 1958, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Board because of the latter's denial of petitioners' motions for the production of statements to government agencies by to of the Attorney General's witnesses.

After further proceedings before the Board, the Board issued its modified report on second remand and again recommended affirmance of its registration order.

The court below affirmed.

Judge Bazelon again dissenting adhered to its original position on the constitutional question and further held that several procedural errors required another remand to the Board.

The case presents to this Court questions of the highest public importance as to the constitutionality of the Subversive Activities Control Act and its construction and application.

Additional questions relate to the sufficiency of the evidence and to what, in our review, were for major procedural errors by the Board of the court below.

The first point that I shall argue is that the Act, on its face and as applied, violates the First Amendment.

As I shall show under the guise of a registration statute, the Act represents an attempt without precedent in this country to enforce conformity by suppressing, advocacy, association and collective activity for wholly legitimate purposes.

The Act provides for proceedings before the Board initiated on petitions of the Attorney General to determine whether accused groups are Communist-action, Communist-front or Communist-infiltrated organizations but to the Act, denominates collectively as Communist organizations.

A Communist-action organization is defined in Section 3 (3) of the Act as an organization which, and I quote, "One is substantially directed, dominated or controlled by the foreign government or foreign organization controlling the world Communist movement," referred to in Section 2 of this title and two, "Operates primarily to advance the objectives of such world Communist movement," as referred to in Section 2 of this title.

Section 2, which is, of course, item of Section 3 by virtue of the Section 3 definition, Section 2 finds that the world Communist movement referred to in the definition is directed and controlled by a foreign power, operates through the medium of a worldwide Communist organization composed of Communist-action organizations and has as its purpose the establishment of what the Act calls a Communist totalitarian dictatorship in all the countries throughout the world by means of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, treachery, deceit, infiltration to other groups and any other means deemed necessary.

Communist-front and Communist-infiltrated organizations are defined in terms of their control by a Communist-action organization or its members and by their purpose of giving aid or support to a Communist-action organization.

Communist-action and Communist-front organizations are required to register as such with the Attorney General when a registration order becomes final upon the exhaustion of judicial review.

Communist-infiltrated organizations are not required to register that are denied the benefits of the National Labor Relations Act.

The registration statement of a Communist-action organization must list the names of its officers and all of its members give a detailed financial accounting and list of printing, mimeographing and similar duplicating facilities.

Registration statements are open for public inspection and are required to be kept current by annual reports.

Members who are not listed in the registration statement of the organization are under a duty to register themselves after an administrative determination of their membership.