299 U.S. 353 (1937), 123, DeJonge v. Oregon

Docket Nº:No. 123
Citation:299 U.S. 353, 57 S.Ct. 255, 81 L.Ed. 278
Party Name:DeJonge v. Oregon
Case Date:January 04, 1937
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 353

299 U.S. 353 (1937)

57 S.Ct. 255, 81 L.Ed. 278




No. 123

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 4, 1937

Argued December 9, 1936



1. The practice of substituting for the evidence a stipulation of facts not shown to have received the approval of the court below is disapproved. P. 358.

2. Upon appeal from a judgment of a state supreme court sustaining a conviction, this Court in this case takes the indictment as construed by the court below. P. 360.

3. Criminal punishment under a state statute for participation in the conduct of a public meeting, otherwise lawful, merely because the meeting was held under the auspices of an organization which teaches or advocates the use of violence, or other unlawful acts

Page 354

or methods to effect industrial or political change or revolution, though no such teaching or advocacy attended the meeting in question, violates the constitutional principles of free speech and assembly. P. 362.

The Criminal Syndicalism Law of Oregon, as applied in this case, is invalid.

4. The rights of free speech and peaceable assembly are fundamental rights which are safeguarded against state interference by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 364.

5. The fact that these rights are guaranteed specifically by the First Amendment against abridgment by Congress does not argue their exclusion from the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.

6. The legislature may protect against abuses of the rights of free speech and assembly by dealing with the abuses; the rights themselves must not be curtailed. Id.

152 Ore. 315; 51 P.2d 674, reversed.

APPEAL from the affirmance of a conviction under the Criminal Syndicalism Law of Oregon.

Page 356

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant, Dirk De Jonge, was indicted in Multnomah County, Oregon, for violation of the Criminal Syndicalism Law of that State. * The Act, which we set forth in

Page 357

the margin, defines "criminal syndicalism" as

the doctrine which advocates crime, physical violence, sabotage or any unlawful acts or methods as a means of accomplishing or effecting industrial or political change or revolution.

With this preliminary definition, the Act proceeds to describe a number of offenses, embracing the teaching of criminal syndicalism, the printing or distribution of books, pamphlets, etc., advocating that doctrine, the organization of a society or assemblage which advocates it, and presiding at or assisting in conducting a meeting of such an organization, society or group. The prohibited acts are made felonies, punishable by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both.

We are concerned with but one of the described offenses, and with the validity of the statute in this particular application. The charge is that appellant assisted in the conduct of a meeting which was called under the auspices of the Communist Party, an organization advocating criminal syndicalism. The defense was that the meeting was public and orderly, and was held for a lawful purpose; that, while it was held under the auspices of the Communist Party, neither criminal syndicalism nor any unlawful conduct was taught or advocated at the meeting, either by appellant or by others. Appellant moved for a direction of acquittal, contending that the statute, as applied to him for merely assisting at a meeting called by the Communist Party at which nothing unlawful was done or advocated, violated the due process clause of the

Page 358

Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

This contention was overruled. Appellant was found guilty as charged, and was sentenced to imprisonment for seven years. The Judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the State, which considered the constitutional question and sustained the statute as thus applied. 152 Ore. 315; 51 P.2d 674. The case comes here on appeal.

The record does not present the evidence adduced at the trial. The parties have substituted a stipulation of facts, which was made and filed after the decision of the Supreme Court of the State and after the Chief Justice of that court had allowed the appeal and had directed transmission here of a certified transcript of the record. We do not approve of that practice, where it does not appear that the stipulation has received the approval of the court, as we think that adherence to our rule as to the preparation of records is important for the protection of the court whose decision is under review as well as of this Court. See Rule 10. But as the question presented in this instance does not turn upon an appreciation of the facts on any disputed point, we turn to the merits.

The stipulation, after setting forth the charging part of the indictment, recites in substance the following: that, on July 27, 1934, there was held in Portland a meeting which had been advertised by handbills issued by the Portland section of the Communist Party; that the number of persons in attendance was variously estimated at from 150...

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