Dombrowski v. Pfister

PETITIONER: Dombrowski
LOCATION: Heart of Atlanta Motel

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 380 US 479 (1965)
ARGUED: Jan 25, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 26, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Dombrowski v. Pfister

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 25, 1965 in Dombrowski v. Pfister

Earl Warren:

-- versus James H. Pfister et al.

Mr. Hubert, you may proceed with your argument.

Leon Hubert, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is an appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1253, from a judgment of a three-judge court denying the appellant's application for an injunction to strain the enforcement of three acts of the State of Louisiana contained in the -- our criminal code, Title XIV, Sections 358 through 374, 384 through 385 and 390 and the following.

All of these statutes on their face purport to deal with regulations of the Communist or subversive parties.

The three-judge court in the procedure which I will elaborate on in a minute decided against us with the vigorous dissent by Judge Wisdom and that we appeal in this Court nor the jurisdiction on June the 15th, 1964.

Now, before going into the actual procedure, I would like to say who the appellants are.

One of the appellants is Mr. Dombrowski who's the president of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, a Tennessee Corporation whose purpose is dedicated to anti-segregation or rather in favor of integration movements.

Mr. Ben Smith an attorney at law and member of this Court who was actively engaged in the south and particularly in New Orleans area and civil rights cases, and then particularly in integration cases that is to say in anti-segregation cases.

He also happens to be treasurer of the organization, Southern Conference Educational Fund which I referred to if it please the Court, as SCEF from now on out.

And Mr. Bruce Waltzer who is a partner, a law partner of Mr. Ben Smith and is also engaged in a practice that specializes anti-segregation matters.

Is the Southern Conference affiliated with (Voice Overlap).

Leon Hubert, Jr.:

The 7th (Voice Overlap) -- no sir, not as such but it has the same purposes according to his charter and according to the statement of facts alleged in the petition filed here, filed in the local court.

Now, in 1954, just after the decision of Brown in this Court, Louisiana created a joint legislative committee and also passed the first act which has to do with alleged anti-segregation or rather alleged Communist activities.

It required then solely that the Communist Party and Communist-front organizations which are defined in the statute should register and that was all that was done at that time it made a penalty for the members of those organizations and for the organizations themselves to fail to register.

Then in 1962, the legislature created a Joint Committee on Un-American Activities and at the same time it passed the legislation which is actually before this Court now which is a combination actually of the earlier statutes and I will have the occasion in a moment to analyze those various statutes.

Now, before going into the pleading aspect and all the issues that are brought before this Court, I think it would be well for me to state certain facts which however are part of the record and therefore officially before this Court.

As I've said, Mr. Smith and Mr. Waltzer, my clients, and Mr. Kinoy by the way, represent Mr. Dombrowski and we'll share the -- our argument that we have here.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Waltzer have been engaged in anti-segregation activities in the New Orleans area and all over the south for several years.

And on October 2nd of 1963, the appellees, Pfister who was chairman of the Un-American Activities Committee of Louisiana legislature, Rogers who is the attorney follow that committee, Burbank and Willie, all of them were defendants in this case who were police officers of the state police department, and the governor of the State of Louisiana and the Attorney General and the District Attorney of Orleans Parish, all made defendants in this case.

But Pfister and Rogers and Burbank and Willie got a search warrant from a judge in Orleans Parish and using that search warrant and also a warrant of arrest.

They searched the offices, the homes and the automobiles of my clients and also of Mr. Dombrowski with arms in downtown New Orleans at 3 o'clock on a Friday afternoon and hold off from their offices a great deal of the material including private litigants files which in fact have never been recovered to this day.

Now, the search warrants were based upon the statutes involved and the warrant of arrest were based upon the statutes before this Court today.

And when they were booked following the arrest at the police station, the statutes before this Court today were used for booking purposes.

However, after this arrest and our client was able to get out on bond very shortly.

After this arrest, no formal charges were brought against our clients.

Is this the preference of the attorney?

Leon Hubert, Jr.:

It never has been sir to this moment.

Well, it was a proceeding brought to suppress it?

Leon Hubert, Jr.:

Yes sir.