Laird v. Tatum

LOCATION: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

DOCKET NO.: 71-288
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 408 US 1 (1972)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1972

Erwin N. Griswold - for petitioners
Frank Askin - for respondents
Sam J. Ervin, Jr. - for the Unitarian Universalist Assn. and others, as amici curiae

Facts of the case


Media for Laird v. Tatum

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1972 in Laird v. Tatum

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in 71-288, Laird against Tatum and others.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Erwin N. Griswold:

May it please the Court.

This case is here on the Government's petition for writ of certiorari to review a divided decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The question before that Court was whether the District Court had rightly dismissed the complaint filed in that Court on February 17, 1970 by the parties who are respondents here.

The complaint was dismissed by the District Cour0t without the production of any evidence.

Thus, the case arises here on the complaint in the District Court, the motion to dismiss and certain affidavits, which were filed in connection with these matters.

In their brief, the respondents say that, and I quote, "The Government has persistently attempted to convert this case into something other than the case brought by the plaintiffs."

I'm afraid that's the way we feel about the respondents.

We think that the case is in the appendix while they try to present it on the basis of two volumes of hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Civil Rights.

I'm reminded of Lord McNaughton's remark about the rule in Shelley's case when he said that it is one thing to put the case in a nutshell and another thing to keep it there.

The complaint filed in the District Court was filed by four individuals and nine unincorporated associations.

It is framed as a class action on behalf of all other individuals and organizations and I read from page 8 of the appendix, "All other individuals and organizations who wish to exercise their right under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to engage in peaceful political protest, demonstrations, marches, rallies, church meetings and other forms of constitutionally protected expression and assemblies without surveillance by defendants agents and without becoming the subject of dossiers, reports and files, defendants' data bank and intelligence network."

The complaint then contains allegations that the Army had been conducting surveillance of lawful and peaceful civilian activity within the United States and that this information is stored in a computerized data bank.

In exhibit "A" attached to the complaint, they gave a sample of the sort of material, which has been compiled.

This appears on pages 13 to 21 of the appendix and I would like to read a few examples beginning on page 14 in Hartford, Connecticut, March 11, 1968.

Approximately 20 persons picketed outside the U.S. Federal Building.

The protestors carried placards denouncing the war in Vietnam and the payment of income tax.

The demonstration was sponsored by the Voluntown Connecticut Chapter of the New England Committee for nonviolent action.

And on page 16, San Jose, California, an anti-Dow Chemical Company demonstration was held in front of the administration building at San Jose State College.

A crowd of about 400 to 500 persons were present but approximately 90% of these were spectators or curious onlookers.

At 1230 hours, the demonstrators moved to the Morris Dailey Auditorium where they were refused permission to hold a rally.

San Jose State College officials however permitted the protestors to use the music building for an afternoon rally.

The rally received very little support and attendance was light.

Now, I am not going to read others of those items but it's apparent that they're the kind of items that constantly appear in the newspapers, information of very little significance and not at all repressive in its nature.

There's also attached to the complaint as an exhibit a copy of an article by Captain Christopher H. Pyle in which appeared in the January 1970 issue of a publication called The Washington Monthly.

There can be no doubt that the publication of this article was the immediate reason for the bringing of this suit.

There are no allegations in the complaint that any specific harm or injury has been done to any of the plaintiffs either individual or the unincorporated associations.

It was alleged that this type of activity has a chilling effect on the plaintiffs and other seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights.

There is no allegation in the complaint that there was any surveillance of any wholly private activity.