Wood v. Georgia

PETITIONER: Wood
RESPONDENT: Georgia
LOCATION: Labor Union Protest

DOCKET NO.: 369
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 370 US 375 (1962)
ARGUED: Mar 29, 1962
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1962

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Wood v. Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1962 (Part 2) in Wood v. Georgia

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1962 (Part 1) in Wood v. Georgia

Hugo L. Black:

Number 369, Milton Kramer against E. Freeman Leverett.

Milton Kramer:

Mr. Justice Black and may it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari from the Court of Appeals of Georgia, the Supreme Court of Georgia having declined to review it.

The facts are these.

In the midst of a local political campaign, the judge of the Superior Court of Bibb County, on behalf of all three judges of that court, delivered a special charge to a grand jury.

Before delivering that special charge, the local press had been notified to have reporters present.

They did have reporters present.

In that charge, the judge, after advising the grand jury, he was speaking on behalf of all three judges, said among other things, “we find what appears to be an inane and inexplicable pattern of Negro bloc voting.”

John M. Harlan II:

What page is this?

Milton Kramer:

Beginning on page 6 of the record.

The part I just read is the last part of the paragraph ending just below the middle of the page.

He then continued, and I'm skipping some unimportant phrases and clauses, “there is an answer which should be brought to life so that people of the community may understand what is going on.

The people are entitled to know how one candidate or another is able to gather to himself thousands of Negro votes in bloc where there is no apparent reason for it.”

Then, over in the next page --

Potter Stewart:

Mr. Kramer, where is Bibb County, which --

Milton Kramer:

It's Macon.

Potter Stewart:

Macon?

Milton Kramer:

Macon is the big city in Central Georgia.

Potter Stewart:

Alright, thank you.

Milton Kramer:

At the top of the page, he advised the grand jury “bloc voting is apparent.”

Then, the last sentence of that paragraph ending on that page, “we do not mean to say to you that Negros do not have the vote -- the right to bloc vote, if they wish to do so if their self-interest is a factor in their decision,” presumably, otherwise, they have no such right in the view of the judge.

The next paragraph, “issues, principles, or policies may under some circumstances, justify certain groups in casting similar votes, but if the vote is a right, it is an individual right and carries with it the duty and obligation of intelligent determination by the individual claiming the right.

There is no right of a vote to be bartered, nor is there any right to a vote to be cast in bloc.”

Now, at the bottom of the page, “there is no doubt that when the vast majority blindly follow the leaders and vote as they are told, it actually amounts to a purchase of thousands of votes by the favorite candidate.”

Now, over on page 10, after instructing the grand jury on the existence of certain election laws which had not been enforced for over 50 years, they had a law on the books at that time which made it illegal to pay anybody to campaign for you.

All campaigning had to be by volunteer, but that had been ignored for 50 years and he refers to that on page 10, the first paragraph starting that page, “some may say that the hiring of people for the purpose of canvassing and influencing voters to vote for one candidate rather than another is a common practice in elections and, therefore, should be overlooked,” but he tells them not to overlook it in the case of Negro bloc voting.

On page 11, in the third paragraph, “it is not unusual to hear a candidate proclaim that there are no racial issues involved and that he represents no special interest.

That he is beholden to no particular individual or group and yet we find on election day getting an almost solid Negro bloc vote and no satisfactory explanation is ever offered.”

That was on June the 6th.

After he delivered his charge, copies of his charge were available for distribution in the judge's chambers.