Whitehill v. Elkins

LOCATION: South Boston Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 389 US 54 (1967)
ARGUED: Oct 16, 1967
DECIDED: Nov 06, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for Whitehill v. Elkins

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1967 in Whitehill v. Elkins

Sanford Jay Rosen:

-- from the statute, the definitional provisions of which were identical to those voided in the Baggett and Dombrowski cases are unconstitutionally fraud, vague and indefinite.

The facts in this case are comparatively simple.

It's a direct appeal from a final order and judgment of a statutory three-judge court sitting in Maryland, dismissing the appellant's complaint on the grounds of a prior precedent to this Court.

The appellant, a Quaker, is an author of works of fiction and nonfiction, and a teacher of Creative Writing at the Johns Hopkins University.

He was invited in the summer of 1966 to teach Creative Writing at the University of Maryland for the academic year of 1966-1967.

He was to be paid $7,000 over 10 months.

In July, he received by mail a copy of the contract to be signed and certain other documents including the certification of applicant for public employment which if I may I'd like to read to the Court.

It's captioned required by law, Article 85A, paragraph 13 Annotated Code of Maryland 1957.

It appears by the way in the transcript at page 11 in the appendix of the appellant's brief at page 16A.

It states, “I, -- leaving space for the name --, do hereby certify that I am not engaged in one way or another in an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States, or the State of Maryland, or any political subdivision of either of them, by force or violence.

I further certify that I understand the aforegoing statement is made subject to the penalties of perjury prescribed in Article 27, Section 439 of the Annotated Code of Maryland,” -- and there's a space for the date and the signature.


Sanford Jay Rosen:

The appellant signed the contract, executed the other papers with the exception of the loyalty of.

He returned these documents and advised his correspondent in a separate letter that on conscientious grounds he would not sign the required oath.

He offered to teach by the way without compensation pending adjudication of the constitutional issues.

He received a reply informing him that the university could not accept his services until he had executed and filed the oath.

On August 19, 1966, he filed a class action.

02.44 --

Sanford Jay Rosen:

I beg your pardon sir.

Do you think this oath is more or less different from the oath that the (Inaudible).

Sanford Jay Rosen:

More or less specific?


Sanford Jay Rosen:

I would say in the context to the statute which is the only way that the oath can be read, it's much less specific.

Oh, what I am trying to (Inaudible) from the statute.

Sanford Jay Rosen:

Well, it's the appellant's --

Is this the only oath that he was required to sign?

Sanford Jay Rosen:

At this time, yes Justice Harlan.


Sanford Jay Rosen:

However, he has to take this oath as authorized under a specific statute and it's our contention that the Gerende case, if that's what you're referring to Justice Harlan, does not really hold for the proposition that the oath can be read without the statute.

And if it does, the subsequent decisions of this Court will make it quite clear that an oath cannot be considered outside of the context of its statute.