Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction or Orange County

RESPONDENT: Board of Public Instruction or Orange County
LOCATION: Allen-Bradley Clock Tower

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 368 US 278 (1961)
ARGUED: Oct 16, 1961
DECIDED: Dec 11, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction or Orange County

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1961 in Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction or Orange County

Earl Warren:

Number 72, David Walter -- Walton Cramp, Jr., Appellant, versus Board of Public Instruction of Orange County, Florida.

Mr. Simon.

Tobias Simon:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please this Honorable Court.

This is an appeal from the final decision of the Supreme Court of Florida, upholding the validity of Fla. Stat. 876.05 against the contention that this statute violated the provisions of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

This is the Act which requires that all public employees in the State of Florida, including David Walton Cramp, who is a teacher, execute a loyalty or expurgatory oath as a condition of his employment.

The pertinent provisions of that oath other than the ones that were in effect prior to 1949 which at that time simply required all public employees to swear loyalty to the Constitution and to the -- and to the United States, now require that the public employee swear that he is not a member of the Communist Party and I quote, “That I have not and will not lend my aid, support, advice, counsel or influence to the Communist Party; that I do not believe in the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of Florida by force or violence; and fourth, that I am not a member of any organization or party which believes in or teaches directly or indirectly the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.”

Now, the appellant, Cramp, had been employed in Orange County as a teacher for nine years when just prior to the institution of this litigation, it was realized that through some administrative oversight, he had not executed the loyalty oath.

He was approached and requested to sign the oath.

Potter Stewart:

How long is this statute been on the books?

Tobias Simon:

Since 1949 sir.

Potter Stewart:

So it was there when he first became employed as a --

Tobias Simon:

Yes, that is correct.

Cramp refused to sign the oath on the grounds that the State could not validly and constitutionally require that he execute this oath as a condition of his employment and for no other reason.

He brought an action in Orange County under Florida statutes for declaratory relief to declare the statute invalid and to assert his continuing right to teach school without the necessity of executing this oath.

This relief was denied to him by the Circuit Court and this decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Florida and this appeal then followed.

I would like to state that the issue before this Court as I understand it is not whether or not Florida is to be required to keep communists in its roles of public employees nor is the question so ably put by my Brother that Florida cannot establish reasonable qualifications for its teaching personnel or other employees.

Because however, there is always and this Court has always recognized the duty of a State with regard to its public employees to establish only and stipulate only those qualifications which are reasonable and which are reasonably designed to fit the man to the job.

Because of that requirement, we state that the issue before this Court is whether or not the qualifications imposed by Florida are reasonable and whether they bear a reasonable relationship to the position itself.

Irrespective, I wish to point out at this point in the argument whether these qualifications were imposed through the procedural device or vehicle of the loyalty oath or whether they were imposed by statute.

I think there is no issue about the fact that a state cannot impose qualifications for employment which violate due process, equal protection and this Court has unanimously stated on many occasions.

Cons --

Felix Frankfurter:

You argue the oath in its entirety beyond the power of the state or you emphasize when calling our attention to the oath, a particular clause?

Tobias Simon:

I will emphasize --

Felix Frankfurter:

Is that --

Tobias Simon:

I will emphasize three particular clauses of (Voice Overlap) --

Felix Frankfurter:

My question is not merely emphasis but do you say that no clause of this oath could stand or some could but it's mixed up with others that couldn't?

Tobias Simon:

It is conceivable and I do not wish to reach the point necessarily that the first of the clauses that one must not be a communist in order to teach in the public schools.

It is conceivable that under present decisions of this Court, Florida could stipulate a qualification that no communist could be a teacher in the Florida schools.

Felix Frankfurter:

Well, the first one is the -- to swear to support the Constitution.

What about that, (Inaudible)?