HUGHES V. SUPERIOR COURT, 339 U. S. 460 (1950)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hughes v. Superior Court, 339 U.S. 460 (1950)

Hughes v. Superior Court of California

for Contra Costa County

No. 61

Argued November 8-9, 1949

Decided May 8, 1950

339 U.S. 460


Petitioners demanded of an employer that it hire Negroes at one of its grocery stores, as white clerks quit or were transferred, until the proportion of Negro clerks to white clerks approximated the proportion of Negro to white customers, which was then about 50%. A California state court enjoined petitioners from picketing the employer's stores to enforce this specific demand for selective hiring on a racial basis. For violation of the injunction, petitioners were found guilty of contempt and were sentenced to fine and imprisonment. The policy of California is against discrimination on the basis of color.

Held: the injunction did not violate petitioners' right of freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 339 U. S. 461-469.

1. The Constitution does not demand that the element of communication in picketing prevail over the mischief furthered by its use to compel employment on the basis of racial discrimination contrary to the State's policy. Pp. 339 U. S. 463-464.

2. Industrial picketing is something more than free speech, since it involves patrol of a particular locality and since the very presence of a picket line may induce action of one kind or another, quite irrespective of the nature of the ideas which are being disseminated. Pp. 339 U. S. 464-465.

3. The Due Process Clause cannot be construed as precluding California from securing respect for its policy against involuntary employment on racial lines by prohibiting systematic picketing that would subvert such policy. Pp. 339 U. S. 465-466.

4. The fact that the policy of the State is expressed by its courts, rather than by its legislature, is immaterial so far as the Fourteenth Amendment is concerned. Pp. 339 U. S. 466-469.

5. A State may direct its law against what it deems the evil as it actually exists without covering the whole field of possible abuses, and it may do so though the forbidden act does not differ in kind from those that are allowed. P. 339 U. S. 468.

32 Cal.2d 850, 198 P.2d 885, affirmed.

Page 339 U. S. 461

The case is stated in the first three paragraphs of the opinion. The judgment below is affirmed, p. 339 U. S. 469.

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