Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham

PETITIONER: Shuttlesworth
RESPONDENT: City of Birmingham
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 394 US 147 (1969)
ARGUED: Nov 18, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 10, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 18, 1968 in Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham

Hugo L. Black:

Shuttlesworth versus City of Birmingham, number 42.

Alright, Mr. Greenberg, you may proceed.

Jack Greenberg:

Mr. Justice Black and may it please the Court.

This case is here on petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Alabama which reversed the Alabama Court of Appeals which in turn had reversed the Circuit Court of Jefferson County which had convicted this petitioner for violating a Birmingham ordinance requiring a permit before a procession or a parade may be held.

The petitioner, Fred Shuttlesworth, was sentenced to 90 days in jail plus 48 days in lieu of paying a fine and cost for parading in violation of this ordinance which appears on page 4 of our brief.

When was this conviction, 1963?

Jack Greenberg:

This was in 1963.

How in the world is it taken this long to get up?

Jack Greenberg:

Well, Mr. Justice Harlan, the case was tried in the Recorder's Court in May 1963 in the Circuit Court in October 1963.

An appeal was promptly taken to the Alabama Court of Appeals which did not decide the case until 1965.

The State of Alabama then took it to the Alabama Supreme Court which did not decide the case until November 1967 and we promptly took it here.

The time was essentially spent in a very lengthy consideration or the very lengthy time that was consumed while the case was pending before the two Alabama courts.

The ordinance in question which appears on page 4 of our brief states that, “It shall be unlawful to organize or hold or assist in organizing and holding a parade or procession or other public demonstration unless a permit has been secured.”

And then it sets forth standards according to which the permit may be granted or denied.

And those standards include beginning on the very last line on page 4 of our brief, public welfare, peace, safety, health, decency, good order, morals, or convenience.

As I stated, this arose in 1963 and this is what one might call a prototype case.

This is the case of the one petitioner whose conviction has been appealed and there area approximately 1500 other cases pending in the juvenile court and the Circuit Court of Jefferson County awaiting disposition of this case.

The case arose at what one may call a classical type of civil rights march.

Abe Fortas:

How many cases did you say are waiting?

Jack Greenberg:

Approximately 1500, about 900 in the juvenile court and 600 in the Circuit Court are being held pending the outcome of this case.

Abe Fortas:

How is that possible?

I thought there are only 50 marchers?

Jack Greenberg:

Well, other persons were prosecuted for violation of this ordinance during this -- these has occurred during the series of demonstrations in Birmingham but in 1963 which openly led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and there were a series of demonstrations and marches over a period of some time.

And while there were only, there were 52 persons arrested in this particular demonstration, there were 1,500 altogether.

This -- the Civil Rights March was one might call a classical type of civil rights march.

The group of marchers of which petitioners, Shuttlesworth with which he was connected left the church at approximately 2:00 or 2:30 in the afternoon.

They walked in the sidewalks.

They were entirely orderly.

There was no question about that at all.

They proceeded approximately four or somewhat more than four blocks and then they were stopped by police officers who asked whether or not they had a permit.