Scales v. United States

PETITIONER: Junius Irving Scales
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Annette Islands, Alaska

DOCKET NO.: 1
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 367 US 203 (1961)
ARGUED: Apr 29, 1959
REARGUED: Oct 10, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1961

ADVOCATES:
Mr John F. Davis - for the United States
Telford Taylor - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

The Smith Act's membership clause prohibited membership in organizations advocating the violent or forceful overthrow of the United States government. Junius Scales was criminally charged with membership in the Communist Party of the United States ("Party") because it advocated the overthrow of the government "as speedily as circumstances would permit." Challenging his felony charge, Scales claimed that the Internal Security Act of 1950 ("Security Act") stated that membership in a Communist organization shall not constitute a per se violation of any criminal statute. After failing in both a district and appellate court, the Supreme Court granted review.

Question

Does a Communist Party member's conviction under the Smith Act, which makes a felony the knowing membership in organizations advocating the violent or forceful overthrow of the United States government, violate the Fifth Amendment's due process clause in light of the apparent protections afforded to such members under the Internal Security Act?

Media for Scales v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1959 (Part 2) in Scales v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 10, 1960 (Part 1) in Scales v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 10, 1960 (Part 2) in Scales v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 29, 1959 (Part 1) in Scales v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 488, Junius Irving Scales, Petitioner, versus United States of America.

General Taylor.

Telford Taylor:

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit.

It's an appeal from a conviction under what is known as the membership clause of the Smith Act.

The case has been here before.

It came here in the 1956 term, after the petitioner had been tried at his first trial and convicted.

And, at that time, the constitutional and statutory questions were argued.

The -- the Court set the case for re-argument at the beginning of the 1957 term.

But before it was reached, the Jencks case, having come down in the mean time, the Solicitor General confessed error under the Jencks case and this Court reversed in a short per curiam opinion on the authority of Jencks, leaving those constitutional and statutory issues untouched that we had argued before.

The case was, of course, remanded.

The petitioner has now been tried a second time.

He has been convicted again.

The Court of Appeals has again affirmed and the case is again here on certiorari.

The principal issues that were argued when the case was here before are here again in substantially the same form.

There are also some important new issues which arise chiefly out of the evidence and the evidentiary rulings at the second trial and out of the intervening decisions of this Court, especially in the Yates case.

And I will come to some of those new questions presently.

But, I would like, first, if I may, to call the Court's attention to the statute which is most closely involved here, the membership clause, which appears in the appendix to our brief, page 2A, because the wording of that clause and its setting in the Smith Act as a whole is rather critical importance to almost all the issues that we have to deal with this morning.

Court will recall, within the Smith Act, paragraphs (1) and (3) deal with advocacy and organizing.

And, most of the Smith Act prosecutions, so far, have been for conspiracy to violate those two paragraphs.

Those are the ones that were involved in the Dennis case, and the Yates case, and the Mesarosh case, and the other Smith Act cases that have been here before.

Then, in paragraph (3), there's a second clause which describes “whoever becomes or is a member of or affiliates with any such society group or assembly of persons knowing the purposes thereof and that such society refers back to a group which teaches or advocates the overthrow of the Government by force and violence.”

Now, this case and a few others, pending in the lower federal courts, have been brought under that clause.

One of them, for example, was up here as a companion case two years ago, the Lightfoot case, and reversed on the same ground under the Jencks rule, remanded to the Court of Appeals in Chicago, and is pending there.

And has been stayed pending the outcome of this case.

Another one is the Noto case from the Second Circuit which is pending here on petition for certiorari now.

Were those cases had been tried?

Telford Taylor:

The Lightfoot case has not been tried again.

It was stayed pending the outcome of this case.

The Noto case, Justice Harlan, was tried before this case came up originally has been pending in the Second Circuit a long time.