COLLINS V. HARDYMAN, 341 U. S. 651 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Collins v. Hardyman, 341 U.S. 651 (1951)

Collins v. Hardyman

No. 217

Argued January 8-9, 1951

Decided June 4, 1951

341 U.S. 651


A complaint in an action to recover damages under 8 U.S.C. § 47(3) alleged that the plaintiffs were members of a political club which planned a meeting to adopt a resolution opposing the Marshall Plan; that defendants conspired to deprive plaintiffs of their rights as citizens of the United States peaceably to assemble and to equal privileges and immunities under the laws of the United States; that, in furtherance of the conspiracy, defendants proceeded to plaintiffs' meeting place and, by threats and violence, broke up the meeting, thus interfering with the right of plaintiffs to petition the Government for redress of grievances, and that defendants did not interfere or conspire to interfere with meetings of other groups with whose opinions defendants agreed. There was no averment that defendants were state officers or acted under color of state law.

Held: The complaint did not state a cause of action under 8 U.S.C. § 47(3). Pp. 341 U. S. 652-663.

(a) Assuming, without deciding, that the facts alleged show that defendants deprived plaintiffs "of having and exercising" a federal right, the facts alleged did not show that the conspiracy was "for the purpose of depriving [them] of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws," and therefore, in this case, a cause of action under 8 U.S.C. § 47(3) was not stated. Pp. 341 U. S. 660-663.

(b) Section 47(3) does not attempt to reach a conspiracy to deprive one of rights unless it is a deprivation of equality, of "equal protection of the law," or of "equal privileges and immunities under the law." Pp. 341 U. S. 660-661.

(c) The fact that the defendants broke up plaintiffs' meeting but did not interfere with the meetings of those who shared defendants' views is not inequality before the law unless there is some manipulation of the law or its agencies to give sanction or sanctuary for doing so. P. 341 U. S. 661.

(d) Although plaintiffs' rights were invaded, disregarded, and lawlessly violated, neither their rights nor their equality of rights under the law have been, or were intended to be, denied or impaired. Pp. 341 U. S. 661-662.

183 F.2d 308, reversed.

Page 341 U. S. 652

In an action brought by respondents against petitioners to recover damages under 8 U.S.C. § 47(3), the District Court dismissed the complaint. 80 F.Supp. 501. The Court of Appeals reversed. 183 F.2d 308. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 809. Reversed, p. 341 U. S. 663.

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