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U.S. Supreme Court

Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, 307 U.S. 496 (1939)

Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization

No. 651

Argued February 27, 28, 1939

Decided June 5, 1939

307 U.S. 496


In a suit to enjoin municipal officers from enforcing ordinances forbidding the distribution of printed matter, and the holding without permits of public meetings, in streets and other public places,


1. The case is within the jurisdiction of the District Court. Pp. 512- 307 U. S. 513, 307 U. S. 525.

2. The ordinances and their enforcement violate the rights under the Constitution of the individual plaintiffs, citizens of the United States; but a complaining corporation cannot claim such rights. P. 307 U. S. 514.

3. The ordinances are void. Pp. 307 U. S. 516, 307 U. S. 518.

Page 307 U. S. 497

4. Provisions of the decree enjoining forcible removal of plaintiffs or exercise of personal restraint over them without warrant, or confinement without lawful arrest and production for prompt judicial hearing, saving lawful search and seizure, or interference with their free access to streets, parks or public places of the city -- are not vague and impracticable. P. 307 U. S. 517.

5. The decree properly enjoined interference with the right of plaintiffs, their agents etc., to communicate their views as individuals to others on the streets in an orderly and peaceable manner, reserving the right of defendants to enforce law and order by lawful search and seizure or arrest. P. 307 U. S. 517.

6. Insofar as the decree relates to distribution of literature and holding of meetings, the decree should enjoin enforcement of the void ordinances, and not undertake to enumerate the conditions under which those activities may he carried on. P. 307 U. S. 518.


PER ROBERTS, J., with whom BLACK, J., concurred. The CHIEF JUSTICE concurred in part (p. 307 U. S. 532).

1. The District Court lacked jurisdiction under Jud.Code § 24(1). P. 307 U. S. 508.

(a) In suits under § 24(1), a traverse of the allegation as to the amount in controversy, or a motion to dismiss based upon the absence of such amount calls for substantial proof on the part of the plaintiff of facts justifying the conclusion that the suit involves the necessary sum. P. 307 U. S. 507.

(b) The record in this suit is bare of any showing of the value of the asserted rights to the complainants individually. P. 307 U. S. 508.

(c) Complainants may not aggregate their interests in order to attain the requisite jurisdictional amount. P. 307 U. S. 508.

2. The District Court had jurisdiction under Jud.Code, § 24(14). P. 307 U. S. 513.

(a) Freedom to disseminate information concerning the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, to assemble peaceably for discussion of the Act and of the opportunities and advantages offered by it, is a privilege or immunity of a citizen of the United States secured against state abridgment by § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and R.S. § 1979 and Jud.Code § 24(14) afford redress in a federal court for such abridgment. P. 307 U. S. 512.

(b) Natural persons alone are entitled to the privileges and immunities which § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment secures to

Page 307 U. S. 498

"citizens of the United States." Only the individual complainants may maintain this suit. P. 307 U. S. 514.

3. The privilege of a citizen of the United States to use the streets and parks for communication of views on national questions may be regulated in the interest of all; it is not absolute, but relative, and must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but it must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied. Distinguishing Davis v. Massachusetts, 167 U. S. 43. P. 307 U. S. 515.

4. The ordinance here in question, which forbids public assembly in the streets or parks of the city without a permit from the Director of Safety, who may refuse such permit upon his mere opinion that such refusal will prevent "riots, disturbances or disorderly assemblage," is void upon its face. P. 307 U. S. 516.

It does not make comfort or convenience in the use of the streets or parks the standard of official action, and can be made the instrument of arbitrary suppression of free expression of views on national affairs. Uncontrolled official suppression of the privilege of public assembly cannot be made a substitute for the duty to maintain order in connection with the exercise of the right.

5. The question whether exemption from the searches and seizures proscribed by the Fourth Amendment is afforded by the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth is not involved. P. 307 U. S. 517.

6. An ordinance absolutely prohibiting distribution of circulars, handbills, placards, etc., in any street or public place is void. Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U. S. 444. P. 307 U. S. 518.


Per STONE, J., with whom REED, J., concurred. The CHIEF JUSTICE concurred in part (p. 307 U. S. 532).

1. Freedom of speech and of assembly for any lawful purpose are rights of personal liberty secured to all persons, without regard to citizenship, by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 307 U. S. 519.

There is no occasion in this case to consider whether freedom of speech and of assembly are immunities secured by the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to citizens of the United States.

2. The decree which is now affirmed is without support in the record, if the constitutional right of free speech and assembly is dependent on the privileges and immunities clause, rather than the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Complainants

Page 307 U. S. 499

are not alleged, shown, or found to be citizens of the United States. The findings do not support the conclusion that the proposed meetings of complainants were for any purpose affecting the relationship between complainants and the United States or pertaining to United States citizenship. The decree is not restricted to interferences with rights or immunities of United States citizenship, but enjoins unlawful interference with all meetings for lawful purposes and the lawful dissemination of all information. Pp. 307 U. S. 522-524.

3. The suit is maintainable under Jud.Code, § 24(14) as a suit for protection of rights and privileges guaranteed by the due process clause. P. 307 U. S. 525.

The right of the individual complainants to maintain it conferred by § 24(14) does not depend on their citizenship and cannot rightly be made to turn on the existence or nonexistence of a purpose to disseminate information about the National Labor Relations Act.

4. The liberty guaranteed by the due process clause is the liberty of natural, not artificial, persons. P. 307 U. S. 527.

A corporation cannot be said to be deprived of the civil rights of freedom of speech and of assembly.

5. The right conferred by the Civil Rights Act of April 20, 1871, to maintain a suit in equity in the federal courts to protect the suitor against a deprivation of rights or immunities secured by the Constitution has been preserved, and whenever the right is one of personal liberty, not dependent for its existence upon the infringement of property rights, there is jurisdiction in the district court under Jud.Code § 24(14) to entertain it without proof that the amount in controversy exceeds $3,000. P. 307 U. S. 531.

Jud.Code § 24(1), conferring upon the district court jurisdiction of suits "arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States" in which the value in controversy exceeds the sum of $3,000, is not to be interpreted as requiring a different result.

101 F.2d 774, modified and affirmed.

CERTIORARI, 306 U.S. 624, to review a decree which modified and affirmed a decree of injunction, 25 F.2d 127, in a suit brought by individuals, unincorporated labor organizations, and a membership corporation, against officials of a municipality to restrain alleged violations of constitutional rights of free speech and of assembly.

Page 307 U. S. 500

MR. JUSTICE BUTLER, presiding in the absence of the CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS:

The judgment of the court in this case is that the decree is modified, and, as modified, affirmed. MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER and MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS has an opinion in which MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs, and MR. JUSTICE STONE an opinion in which MR. JUSTICE REED concurs. The CHIEF JUSTICE concurs in an opinion. MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS and MR. JUSTICE BUTLER dissent for reasons stated in opinions by them respectively.

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