RESPONDENT: Mabel S. Amos, et al.
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Mobile County
DOCKET NO.: 647
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
CITATION: 394 US 358 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 18, 1968 / Jan 21, 1969
DECIDED: Mar 25, 1969
Facts of the case
The National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) sought to place the names of minority candidates on the ballot for local and state-wide offices. Alabama election officials denied the NDPA request under the Alabama Corrupt Practices Act. The NDPA then brought suit in a special three-judge U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama claiming constitutional violations. NDPA lost and appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
Initially, the Court heard arguments on October 18 in support of a temporary restraining order which it had granted on October 14. The day after oral argument, the Court granted the order and subsequently addressed the merits of the controversy on March 25.
Does the application of the Alabama Corrupt Practices Act (1) violate the Fifteenth Amendment provides guaranteeing the right to vote and (2) violate the First Amendment's right to band together to advance political beliefs?
Media for Hadnott v. AmosAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 18, 1968 in Hadnott v. Amos
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 21, 1969 in Hadnott v. Amos
Sallie M. Hadnott, et al., appellants, versus Mabel S. Amos, et al.
Charles Morgan, Jr.:
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.
We're back today in a matter of great gravity on the start of a new international life, even though it's not the beginning of another term of this Court.
Theme of the next few years is to bring us together.
We're confronted today with a question, amongst others, which directly relates to Section 148 of the Alabama Code in both its aspects, and a defendant, Judge of Probate from the State of Alabama named James Dennis Herndon.
Both the United States and counsel for defendant Herndon agree that, for some reason, this case should be remanded to the District Court other than for a hearing on contempt.
It is this Court's order that was violated, if any, by defendant Herndon, not the order of the District Court.
This case is comparable to Ship only in the sense that this Court is much more clearly involved than this Court was involved in Ship.
The gravity of the case in Ship, of course, involved a lynching in the loss of a human life.
In this case, it involves what we consider the theft of the right to vote.
Regardless of the evidence in the case which quite clearly points, we believe the evidence had been compiled since we were last here, which quite clearly indicates that the defendant Herndon is in contempt of this Court's order, I would cite to you the first part of Section 148.
We challenge the constitutionality of the second part of that statute which states, in effect, that the ballots shall not be printed until 20 days before the general election.
The defendant Herndon received a copy of the dissolution of the order of the lower Court on the 14th.
He had his ballots back by the 17th, the day on which he is required to have had, by name, removed from the ballot by Alabama law.
And, in his haste to delete the names of the Negro candidates from the ballot, he not only violated the order of this Court, but violated the first provisions of Section 148.
Since this last election, Alabama now has more elected Negro officials than in any other southern state, 72.
Additionally, one -- more official has been appointed.
The 17 Negros elected in this election to admittedly minor posts by the NDPA, equals the entire number of Negro elected officials in the state of Florida, for instance.
There are now, in the south, or the best ascertainable techniques that we have, 384 Negro elected public officials.
There maybe up to 400, but those are the figures of the Southern Regional Council Voter Project.
During these four years, of course, we concern ourselves in the south, all of us no matter which side of the particular political fence we're on or otherwise, regarding the upcoming life that we're about to live.
For a number of years in the south, men have contumaciously violated the orders of the United States Courts.
I've been involved in a case which involved a man standing in a door at a university.
We have witnessed riots in Mississippi at a university.
We've witnessed overtly contemptuous acts.
We've seen district judges pilloried and others too, and that's free speech but free speech, of course, stops when the Court order comes and you're ordered to abet.
And, the defendant Herndon in this case was faced with the greatest threat a man in GreeneCounty Public Office could be faced with, no doubt.
Unlike Macon County, Alabama where you do have a more coalesced movement for true integration in politics.
In Greene County, the probate judge found himself suddenly faced with the imminent election of four Negros to the five-man County Commission and two Negros to the five-man County Board of Education, on which, one Negro then said “this is not a large county.