Yates v. United States

PETITIONER: Oleta O'Connor Yates
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Roth's mail-order book business

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 354 US 298 (1957)
ARGUED: Oct 08, 1956 / Oct 09, 1956
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1957

Facts of the case

Fourteen leaders of the Communist Party in the state of California were tried and convicted under the Smith Act. That Act prohibited willfully and knowingly conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force. This case was decided in conjunction with Richmond v. United States and Schneiderman v. United States.


Did the Smith Act violate the First Amendment?

Media for Yates v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1956 (Part 1) in Yates v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1956 (Part 2) in Yates v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 08, 1956 in Yates v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 6, Oleta O'Connor Yates, Henry Steinberg, Loretta Starvus Stack, et al., versus United States of America.

Mr. Margolis.

I beg your pardon.


These -- these three cases are all together, Number 6, 7 and 8, that's --

Ben Margolis:

That is correct, Your Honor.

Earl Warren:

-- insinuation with Mr. Margolis.

Felix Frankfurter:

May I ask you?

Whether you're alone or your associate -- your associate will argue?

Ben Margolis:

No, each of the cases will be argued separately but they are consolidated.

They have been consolidated by the Court for a single -- appearing a single argument, as I understand it.

Earl Warren:

Yes, that's correct Mr. Margolis.

Felix Frankfurter:

How many arguments?

Three, four, how many?

Ben Margolis:

We will have myself, Mr. Kenny, and Mr. Donovan.

I am arguing case Number 6, which involved 11 of the petitioners in the case.

If the Court please, this --

Felix Frankfurter:

Let me get around this early, would you mind stating what identity, what differences there are in the three cases that are consolidated that you're arguing, when you get around this Mr. Margolis for overtime.

Ben Margolis:

There are no -- I will state right at the outset, Your Honor that aside from some evidence with respect to individual acts or statements of individual petitioners and aside from differences with respect to their position in the Communist Party, there are no substantial differences among these petitioners.

Felix Frankfurter:

The only difference is of the (Inaudible)

Ben Margolis:

Aside from (Voice Overlap) --

Felix Frankfurter:

-- (Voice Overlap)

this argument, that those --

Ben Margolis:

-- aside -- aside from the fact that there are differences as to individual statements attributed to the petitioners, differences as to their positions held within the Communist Party.

Felix Frankfurter:

But the main attacks or common attacks?

Ben Margolis:

I believe that is correct, Your Honor.

However, counsel may disagree.

This is the first Smith Act case of course since Dennis that this Court has agreed to hear.

I think that the Court should know at the outset that the indictment in this case, names all of the defendants in the Dennis case as co-conspirators with the defendants in this case.

The theory of the respondent has been at all stages of this case that the conspiracy charged in this case is identical with the one in Dennis sustained by the decision of this Court.