Scull v. Virginia ex rel. Comm. on Law Reform and Racial Activities

RESPONDENT: Virginia ex rel. Comm. on Law Reform and Racial Activities
LOCATION: Sherry Frontenac

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 359 US 344 (1959)
ARGUED: Nov 18, 1958
DECIDED: May 04, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for Scull v. Virginia ex rel. Comm. on Law Reform and Racial Activities

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 18, 1958 in Scull v. Virginia ex rel. Comm. on Law Reform and Racial Activities

Earl Warren:

Number 51, David H. Scull, Petitioner, versus Commonwealth of Virginia.

Mr. Rauh.

Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.:

May it please the Court.

This case comes here to review the judgment of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals affirming petitioner sentence of fine and imprisonment for refusing to answer certain questions put to him by a Racial Activities Investigating Committee of the Virginia legislature.

It is petitioner's contention before Your Honors today as it has been throughout these proceedings that the action of the Virginia Racial Activities Investigating Committee in summoning and questioning petitioner about his association with various civic, political and religious organizations unlawfully infringed upon his constitutional right of freedom of speech and of assembly.

This is, I believe, the first case to come before this Court involving the infringement of these constitutional rights by an Investigating Committee in the area of racial activity.

The Court did of course at the last term consider a somewhat similar effort to harass the supporters of desegregation in the NAACP case.

And of course, the Court has considered the activities of investigating committees in the so-called anti-communist appeal as the last and the next cases will be, but I believe that the first of its type which involved an infringement based on a Racial Activities Investigating Committee.

And it is our confident belief and it will be our purpose to show that petitioner's case is then a fortiori case on the basis of NAACP last year in Watkins and Sweezy before them.

To fully understand the massive intrusion on fundamental liberties involved in this case, a small part at least of the background of the resolutions setting up the Investigating Committee must be briefly stated.

On February 1st, 1956, approximately or almost two years after this Court's decision in the Brown case, the Virginia General Assembly adopted an interposition resolution interposing the will of Virginia against the decision of this Court.

On August 27, 1956, some six months later, in an implementation of that interposition resolution, an extra session of the Virginia legislature met.

The Governor in opening the Virginia legislature's extra session submitted what he called, and I quote “Recommendations to continue our system of segregated public schools”.

And on September 29th, 1956, this extra session of the general assembly adapted more than a dozen bills to carry out the Governor's recommendation to continue our system of segregated public schools.

This was what is colloquially and commonly known Virginia's plan of massive resistance.

And it had two facets, these dozen or more bills.

First, was the direct assault on this Court's decision.

That was the provision to close the school if any Negro were definitely assigned to a then white school.

It was a Pupil Placement Act which was declared on constitutional by the Fourth Circuit and Third was denied here.

It was the Appropriations Act which finally and also indicated Virginia's massive resistance.

There were about seven or eight statutes in this area directly contravening the decision of this Court, but that was not enough.

In addition to the direct assault on the decisions of this Court, there came what I would refer to as the indirect assault.

In seven statutes aimed at those who would bring lawsuits to enforce the rights which this Court indicated in Brown v. Board of Education.

These were the seven so-called anti-NAACP bills.

Two of these were registration provisions which were declared unconstitutional by a three-judge statutory court, and which is before Your Honors in number 127.

Three of these were anti -- so-called anti-barratry statutes, one of which was declared unconstitutional in the three-judge court in number 127 and two of which -- and the remaining two were not passed on because it was left for the state court to clarify what these three-judge federal statutory court thought was ambiguous.

What's the title of the case?


Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.:

It is number -- I think it's here, Harrison v. NAACP, Your Honor.

And finally, the last two statutes are investigating committee statutes.