Nostrand v. Little

LOCATION: Dry Docks at Reed, WV

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 362 US 474 (1960)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1960 / Mar 31, 1960
DECIDED: May 02, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Nostrand v. Little

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1960 (Part 1) in Nostrand v. Little
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1960 (Part 2) in Nostrand v. Little

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1960 in Nostrand v. Little

Earl Warren:

Number 342, Howard L. Nostrand et aL., Appellants, versus Thomas Balmer et al.

Mr. Hoague, you may proceed.

Francis Hoague:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, which judgment sustained or held constitutional, the provisions of a certain statute which I will describe to you shortly.

The appellants are two full professors at the University of Washington, which is a State University having tenure on -- being the professors, have tenure and with certain retirement rights.

The appellees are the State Attorney General, the president of the university and the Board of Regents in charged of the university.

Excuse me, did I say the appellants?

I mean the appellees are the Attorney General and the Board of Regents and the president.

The facts are established by the findings of fact of the trial court which are set out on pages 8 and 9 of the record.

They show that in 1955, pursuant to a statute that had been passed shortly before the spring of 1955 by the legislature, the appellants were directed by the appellees to execute an oath that they did not belong to the Communist Party or to any other subversive organization as defined in the statute.

And they -- it was stated that if they did not sign this oath and the oath is set forth in Appendix C into appellants' brief, they did not sign this oath, they would -- they would lose their employment.

Their employment would be terminated and there would be loss of tenure in retirement.

Now, they, thereupon, filed a petition in the state court for a declaratory judgment seeking an injunction against enforcement of the Act and restraining the insistence on the signing of the oath.

In this, the petition, it was asserted that a statute, pursuant to which this oath was presented, violated the State and the Federal Constitution.

Insofar as the Federal Constitution is involved, it was said that there was a denial of due process of law, that there was a -- an abrogation of freedom of speech and assembly and that the statute constituted a bill of a tenure.

Now, I will describe the statute which is charged that the constitutionality of which is challenged, it is set forth at page 5 -- and pages 5 and 6 of our appendix.

Section 1 of the statute, this is the 1955 statute, says that, "Every department or agency of the State of Washington or of any county or city in the State of Washington, shall require every employee to sign an affidavit as to whether or not he or she belongs to the Communist Party or other subversive organization."

Now, this is -- this refers to not prior membership, but membership at the time of signing the oath.

It goes on to say that "Refusal to answer this -- this question on any grounds, shall be a cause for immediate dismissal from employment."

Section 4 of the 1955 Act provides that the Communist Party is a subversive organization and that membership in the Communist Party shall be a subversive activity within the meaning of the Act.

Felix Frankfurter:

And it covered you to tell to us about the two professors, what their status is as of this moment?

Francis Hoague:


An injunction, temporary injunction, was issued and they are in full tenure right now.

Felix Frankfurter:

But I thought the Supreme Court vacated?

Francis Hoague:

We -- we obtained a stay --

Felix Frankfurter:

Stay --

Francis Hoague:

-- of the vacation.

Felix Frankfurter:

(Voice Overlap) --

Francis Hoague:

Yes, Your Honor.

Felix Frankfurter:

So that they're in full -- in full occupation of their post.