Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham

PETITIONER: Shuttlesworth
RESPONDENT: Birmingham
LOCATION: S.S. Hornfels

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 376 US 339 (1964)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1964
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1964 in Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham

Earl Warren:

Number 168, Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Petitioner, versus City of Birmingham.

Mr. Greenberg.

Jack Greenberg:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Alabama Court of Appeals which is the intermediate appellate court in Alabama.

Petitioner asserts denial of rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The Alabama Court of Appeals ruled against him and the Alabama Supreme Court refused to review the case on the ground that petitioner's petition was filed on the wrong-sized paper.

That is an ordinary legal cap paper instead of the folio paper which is in this record here.

Petitioner was convicted in the Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit for violating Section 856 of the Birmingham City Code which is set forth on page 2 of our brief.

And this provision briefly provides that any person who knowingly opposes or resists any officer in executing or attempting to make any lawful arrest or in the discharge of any legal duty, and so forth, shall, on conviction, be punished as -- for a misdemeanor.

The charge brought against petitioner was essentially in the language of the ordinance and the charge appears on page 4 of our brief and it charge that petitioner did knowingly and willfully interfere with and hinder the Chief of Police in the discharge of his legal duty.

The Alabama Court of Appeals, however, affirmed on the ground, as petitioner reads it, that it did not have to reach the question of whether petitioner violated Section 856 because, as appears on page 60 of the record, it held, he had violated another section, Section 825, which we -- with which he had never been charged and that is the Section making an assault of crime.

And it said that in as much as Shuttlesworth blocked the Chief's path using words from which the intent to do so in rudeness or anger could probably and rationally be inferred, there was no error in his conviction since he could have been clearly convicted of a simple assault.

The petitioner's first conviction here is that there is no evidence to sustain the conviction below and that is no evidence either under Section 856 because petitioner, first of all, we submit, did not interfere with anyone and secondly, we submit, the police were not in the exercise of any lawful duty.

And third, if the question of the crime of assault is in the case, as it was raised for the first time in the Alabama Court of Appeals.

There was no assault under Alabama law as it has been stated heretofore because, as we read the Alabama cases, there is either a requirement of violence or an -- an attempt to commit violence of some sort.

Or under the Alabama law of assault, as it has been defined for the first time in this case as involving some ingredient of rudeness and anger because on this record, in the words of the State's own witnesses, there was neither rudeness nor anger.

(Inaudible) actual conduct out of which this (Voice Overlap) --

Jack Greenberg:

Well, I was just about to come to that, Mr. Justice Harlan.

The facts are not seriously disputed.

There is some slight dispute between the parties but, for purposes of this argument, we will accept the statement of the facts as given by the police and most favorable to the State.

May 17th, 1961, the Freedom Riders, which I believe need not be further described as the well-recognized acts that occurred around that time, the Freedom Riders were in the Birmingham bus terminal.

Some of them had come from Nashville to Birmingham and were on route to Montgomery, Alabama.

Some of the Freedom Riders were Birmingham residents and they were joining the national group and they were going to Montgomery, Alabama.

All of the group had tickets, including the petitioner.

He had a ticket and he had a suitcase.

The Chief of Police came up to the group, and on page 15 and 16 of the record, what he said appears.

I'll rapidly go through his testimony, he said, "When I got over to the bus station, I went through the bus station with some other officers and some superior officers, I believe Captain Wall and so forth.

And I went out and told that group, that is the Freedom Riders, that group of people in a voice loud enough to be heard who I was.

I identified myself and told them that due to circumstances that day that I, as Chief of Police, was arresting them and taking them into protective custody of the City of Birmingham.

Then, he said Shuttlesworth came over.