Mitchell v. Donovan

LOCATION: Birmingham City Jail

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 398 US 427 (1970)
ARGUED: Apr 21, 1970
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Mitchell v. Donovan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 1970 in Mitchell v. Donovan

Warren E. Burger:

Next case for argument is Number 726, Mitchell against Donovan.

You may proceed whenever you're ready, Mr. Castner.

Mr. Castner.

Lynn S. Castner:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The appellants in this case are the Communist Party of the United States of America, Communist Party of the State of Minnesota, Mrs. Charlene Mitchell and Mr. Michael Zagerell, 1968 Communist Party Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, Mrs. Betty Smith State Secretary of the Minnesota Communist Party, 10 presidential electors from the State of Minnesota for the Communist Party, two plaintiff appellees representing the 2,394 registered voters who signed a petition to put the Communist Party candidates on the 1968 ballot and one registered voter who did not sign the petition.

The Communist Party of the State of Minnesota as well as the National Party are unincorporated associations.

The Communist Party of Minnesota held a duly convened statewide convention in Minnesota on or about June 23, 1968.

They elected six delegates and an alternate delegate to the National Convention of the Communist Party U.S.A, which was called for and held in New York, July 4 to July 7, 1968.

At the Communist Party of Minnesota Convention, a motion was passed that if the Communist Party U.S.A nominated a presidential ticket that the Communist Party of Minnesota would endeavor to place on the ballot in Minnesota those candidates.

Mrs. Betty Smith attended that convention as a delegate in New York.

Mrs. Mitchell and Mr. Zagerell were duly nominated by that convention immediately following the Communist Party of Minnesota mounted a campaign to obtain the requisite number of signatures, under Minnesota Law, 2000 to place the candidates on the ballot.

On this nominating petition appeared the name of the ten Communist presidential electors and under Minnesota Law on the ballot only appears the name of the candidates and by Minnesota Law, a vote for the candidates is a vote for those electors.

On Sunday, September 8, the party completed its campaign to collect signatures.

On the next day, Monday the 9th, representatives of the Communist Party, the National Office as well as the State appeared at the Office of Secretary of State of Minnesota Joseph Donovan to file the nominating petition.

The party representatives arrived at the Secretary of State's Office during the noon hour.

Immediately after noon, they tendered their petition.

This petition was anticipated and they were presented a written refusal of the Secretary of State.

He did examine the contents of the package and satisfied himself that it was the nominating petition for the Communist Party.

His refusal said, “Please be advised that upon the advice of the Attorney General of Minnesota and at his direction as a matter of law, I hereby officially refuse.”

The Attorney General had issued an opinion which was also a copy of which was given to the representatives, in which the Attorney General said, “In view of the Federal Statutes and quoted in full Sections 841 and 842 of the Communist Control Act, we are of the opinion that you should refuse to accept for filing the nominating petition in question.

However, any doubts relative to this matter can only be finally resolved by the Courts pursuant to appropriate legal proceedings.”

The party went to Court.

Judge Devitt convened the three-fudge District Court and on September 30th, heard arguments of counsel.

Following that and inspite of a request for a permanent injunction, the Court ruled that a hurried decision would not be appropriate.

Byron R. White:

What did you ask for?

Lynn S. Castner:

In the prayer for relief, we ask both for a temporary and permanent injunction.

Byron R. White:

Against what?

Lynn S. Castner:

Against the state officials requiring them to place the party candidates on the ballot.

Potter Stewart:


Lynn S. Castner:

In the June '68 Election.