CARPENTERS V. SCOTT, 463 U. S. 825 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Carpenters v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825 (1983)

United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America,

Local 610, AFL-CIO v. Scott

No. 82-486

Argued April 26, 1983

Decided July 5, 1983

463 U.S. 825


Respondent construction company hired nonunion workers for a project near Port Arthur, Tex., and a citizen protest against the company's hiring practice was organized at a meeting held by the Executive Committee of the Sabine Area Building and Construction Trades Council. During the protest at the construction site, company employees (including the two individual respondents) were assaulted and beaten, and construction equipment was burned and destroyed. The violence and vandalism delayed construction and led the company to default on its contract. In their action in Federal District Court against petitioners -- the Sabine Area Building and Construction Trades Council and certain local unions and individuals -- respondents asserted that petitioners had conspired to deprive respondents of their legally protected rights, contrary to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (1976 ed., Supp. V) making available a cause of action to those injured by conspiracies formed

"for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws."

The District Court entered judgment for respondents, granting injunctive relief and awarding damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed in pertinent part, holding that the purpose of the conspiracy was to deprive respondents of their First Amendment right not to associate with a union, that for purposes of § 1985(3) it was not necessary to show some state involvement in the infringement of First Amendment rights, and that § 1985(3) reaches conspiracies motivated by political or economic bias as well as those motivated by racial bias, thus including the conspiracy to harm the nonunion employees of the nonunion contractor.

Held: An alleged conspiracy to infringe First Amendment rights is not a violation of § 1985(3) unless it is proved that the State is involved in the conspiracy or the aim of the conspiracy is to influence the activity of the State. Moreover, the kind of animus that § 1985(3) requires is not present in this case. Pp. 463 U. S. 830-839.

(a) Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U. S. 88, upheld the application of § 1985(3) to purely private conspiracies aimed at interfering with rights

Page 463 U. S. 826

constitutionally protected against private as well as official encroachment, such as the rights involved in that case -- the right to travel and Thirteenth Amendment rights. However, Griffin did not hold or declare that, when the alleged conspiracy is aimed at a right that is, by definition, only a right against state interference, such as First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, the plaintiff in a § 1985(3) suit nevertheless need not prove that the conspiracy contemplated state involvement of some sort. Pp. 463 U. S. 831-834.

(b) The language and legislative history of § 1985(3) establish that it requires "some racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus behind the conspirators' action." Griffin, supra, at 403 U. S. 102. Pp. 463 U. S. 834-835.

(c) Though the predominant purpose of § 1985(3) was to combat the then-prevalent animus against Negroes and their supporters, it is not necessary to determine here whether § 1985(3) must be construed to reach only cases involving racial bias. Pp. 463 U. S. 835-837.

(d) Even if it is assumed that § 1985(3) is to be construed to reach conspiracies aimed at any class or organization on account of its political views or activities, the provision does not reach conspiracies motivated by bias towards others on account of their economic views, status, or activities. Neither the language nor the legislative history of § 1985(3) compels a construction that would include group action resting on economic or commercial animus, such as animus in favor of or against unionization. Pp. 463 U. S. 837-839.

680 F.2d 979, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and POWELL, REHNQUIST and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined,post, p. 463 U. S. 839.

Page 463 U. S. 827

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