Diamond v. Louisiana

LOCATION: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 376 US 201 (1964)
ARGUED: Feb 20, 1964
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Diamond v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1964 in Diamond v. Louisiana

Earl Warren:

Number 100, Dion Tyrone Diamond, Petitioner, versus Louisiana.

Mr. Nabrit.

James M. Nabrit, III,:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is before the Court on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, brought by the petitioner, Dion Diamond, who was convicted of the crime of disturbing the peace in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 14:103 and was sentenced to jail and to pay a fine.

Petitioner contends generally and has throughout the proceedings that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by his conviction for making a series of speeches under a vague and indefinite criminal law.

Now, the statute involved is setout on the second page of petitioner's brief, it is that may be remembered as the law which was before this Court in Garner against Louisiana two years or three years ago.

The Part A of the statute with -- which we're concerned, contains seven subsections prohibiting a number of different acts.

The -- for example, the first describes as engaging -- as disturbing the peace, engaging in a fistic encounter, the second relates to unnecessary -- unnecessarily loud, offensive or insulting language.

The third, appearing in an intoxicated condition, the fourth, engaging in any act in a violent and tumultuous manner.

And now we come to the last three sections.

Section 5, holding of an unlawful assembly, 6, interruption of any lawful assembly of people and 7, relate -- the catch or clause relates to the Commission of any other act in such a manner as to unreasonably disturb or alarm the public.

Now, the parties are in dispute in this case as to which part of this law was used to convict the petitioner and indeed, the State has shifted its ground in successive briefs filed in this Court.

The State now contends that subsections 5 and 6 were the ones used to convict the petitioner.

In the brief in opposition to certiorari, they argued only that subsection 6 was in the law.

Now before -- but -- but before describing the facts in the proceedings, I'd like to briefly state just -- just state without argument, the principal arguments that we will make.

First, we contend that this case is like Stromberg against California.

And that, there is no way to exclude the possibility that the trial judge relied upon the most sweeping and general and indefinite part of the statute, subsection 7 to convict the petition and that this provision is unconstitutionally vague.

And secondly, we urge that in another aspect, for cases like Thomas against Collins because whatever part of the law, it was used to convict Diamond, he was convicted and given a single penalty for making a number of speeches and saying a number of different things including the charge that he encouraged a group of college students to stay away from classes.

This was before -- before the judge without a jury, was it?

James M. Nabrit, III,:

That is correct Your Honor.

And they took -- finished that second thought.

There -- no part of the statute is sufficiently precise and definite to punish this type of -- this particular type of speech.

And the applical -- applicable principle of Thomas against Collins being that as for a single conviction rest on more than one State and one of the statesmen cannot validly be punished here for want a fair warning.

The entire conviction must be reversed.

Now, --

Byron R. White:

Did the -- did the speeches urged entering the classrooms?

James M. Nabrit, III,:

One of them did, Your Honor, one of the speeches for which he was convicted.

I'm going to attempt right now to describe the -- the evidence which concerned a series of speeches made by Diamond on the campus of Southern University near -- in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.

The time of his first speech, which was on January 20th or 30th of 1962, some of the Southern University students had been engaged on a boycott of classes for several days and their protest related to the school's treatment of some students who had been arrested in anti-segregation demonstration.

Potter Stewart:

This is a State College University?