Mills v. Alabama

LOCATION: Neshoba County Jail

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 384 US 214 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1966
DECIDED: May 23, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Mills v. Alabama

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1966 in Mills v. Alabama

Earl Warren:

Number 597, James E. Mills, Appellant, versus Alabama.

Mr. Perrine.

Alfred Swedlaw:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I'm Alfred Swedlaw.

Earl Warren:

Yes, there are two counsels here.

Alfred Swedlaw:

Yes sir.

Earl Warren:


Mr. Swedlaw, you may proceed with your argument.

Alfred Swedlaw:

Thank you, sir, we are both of Birmingham.

Mr. Perrine, my colleague and I, are appearing on behalf of the appellant, Mr. James E.Mills.

Earl Warren:


Alfred Swedlaw:

This case concerns Section 285 of the Alabama Corrupt Practices Act, regulating election practices.

And specifically, that portion of the Act which provides as follows.

It is a corrupt practice for any person on election day to do any electioneering or to solicit any votes for or against the election or nomination of any candidate, or in support of or in opposition to any proposition that is being voted on, on the day on which the election affecting such candidates or propositions is being held.

Mr. Mills is editor of the Birmingham Post-Herald, a morning newspaper published daily in Birmingham, Alabama, and distributed throughout the State of Alabama.

The circulation of this paper is approximately 85,000 as being the second largest newspaper in the State.

Potter Stewart:

It's the only morning paper in Birmingham?

Alfred Swedlaw:

Yes, sir.

There's an afternoon paper, the sister paper of the Birmingham Post, it's the Birmingham News and it has a circulation of approximately 130,000, I think Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

And this is the only morning newspaper?

Alfred Swedlaw:

This is the only morning newspaper.

On November 6 of 1962, a municipal election was held in Birmingham to determine whether the existing commission form of city government would be retained or would be replaced by the so-called mayor-council form.

Mr. Mills authored an editorial which was published on election day in his newspaper.

The editorial appears in full on page 25 of the record and as Appendix K on page 35 of the appellant's brief.

In this editorial, Mr. Mills criticized the then mayor of Birmingham for promising pay raises to city employees and for saying that he would instruct city employees to neither give out news to nor discuss with reporters of the Birmingham Post-Herald, or its sister paper, the Birmingham News, any public business.

The Mills editorial stated that the proposed pay raises were -- was another good reason why the voter should vote overwhelmingly today in favor of mayor-council government.

As to the news blackout threatened by the mayor, the editorial comment was, if Mayor Hanes displays such arrogant disregard of the public right to know on the eve of election, what can we expect in the future if the city commission should be retained.

Birmingham and the people of Birmingham deserve a better break.

A vote for mayor-council government will give it to them.

The publication of this editorial marked the beginning of the chain of events ultimately leading to our appearance here this morning.