335 U.S. 106 (1948), 695, United States v. Congress of Industrial Organizations

Docket Nº:No. 695
Citation:335 U.S. 106, 68 S.Ct. 1349, 92 L.Ed. 1849
Party Name:United States v. Congress of Industrial Organizations
Case Date:June 21, 1948
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 106

335 U.S. 106 (1948)

68 S.Ct. 1349, 92 L.Ed. 1849

United States

v.

Congress of Industrial Organizations

No. 695

United States Supreme Court

June 21, 1948

Argued April 28-29, 1948

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

A labor organization and its president were indicted for violations of § 313 of the Corrupt Practices Act of 1925, as amended by § 304 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, which prohibits contributions or expenditures by corporations and labor organizations in connection with federal elections. The indictment charged that the labor organization made, and its president consented to, expenditures for the publication of a weekly periodical, in a certain issue of which appeared an article by its president urging members to vote for a particular candidate in a forthcoming congressional election, and that it made expenditures for the publication and distribution of extra copies of that issue in connection with the election, but it did not charge that free copies were distributed to nonsubscribers, nonpurchasers, or persons not entitled to receive copies as members of the union. The District Court sustained a motion to dismiss on the ground that the Act, so far as it related to expenditures by labor organizations in connection with federal elections, violated the First Amendment of the Federal Constitution. The Government appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act.

Held:

1. The indictment does not state an offense under § 313 of the Act. Pp. 107-110,120-124.

2. The interpretation here placed on § 313 is supported by the history, the language, and the purpose of the section, and by the fact that grave doubt as to its constitutionality would arise were it construed as applicable to the acts charged in the indictment. Pp.113-122.

3. On review under the Criminal Appeals Act, this Court is not required to pass upon the constitutionality of § 313 when the indictment does not state an offense under it. P. 110.

77 F.Supp. 355, affirmed.

Respondents, a labor organization and an officer thereof, were indicted for violations of § 313 of the Corrupt Practices Act, as amended by § 304 of the Labor Management

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Relations Act of 1947. The District Court dismissed the indictment on the ground of unconstitutionality of the challenged provision of the Act. 77 F.Supp. 355. The Government appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act. Affirmed on another ground, p. 124.

REED, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal presents a problem as to the constitutionality of § 313 of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925, as amended by § 304 of the Labor Management Act of 1947. Section 313 of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act now reads as stated in the margin.1

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An indictment was returned at the January, 1948, term in the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia on two counts charging in count I the Congress of Industrial Organizations and in count II its President, Philip Murray, with violation of § 313 of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act because of the publication and distribution in the District of Columbia of an issue, Vol. 10, No. 28, under date of July 14, 1947, of "The CIO News," a weekly periodical owned and published by the CIO at the expense and from the funds of the CIO and with the consent of its President, Mr. Murray. The number of "The CIO News" in question carried upon its front page a statement by Mr. Murray as President of the CIO, urging all members of the CIO to vote for Judge Ed Garmatz, then a candidate for Congress in Maryland at a special election to be held July 15, 1947. The statement said it was made despite § 313 in the belief that the section was unconstitutional because it abridged rights of free

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speech, free press and free assemblage, guaranteed by the Bill or Rights.

[68 S.Ct. 1351] The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that § 313, as construed and applied and upon its face, abridged as to the CIO and its members and Mr. Murray freedom of speech, press and assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances in violation of the Constitution; that the classification of labor organizations was arbitrary and the provisions vague in contravention of the Bill of Rights; and that the terms of the section were an invasion of the rights of defendants, protected by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. The District Court sustained the motion to dismiss on the ground that, as "no clear and present danger to the public interest can be found in the circumstances surrounding the enactment of this legislation," the asserted abridgment of the freedoms of the First Amendment was unjustified.2 77 F.Supp. 355, 358. In the order granting the motion to dismiss, the District Court defined its ruling as follows:

. . . that that portion of Section 313 of the Corrupt Practices Act, as amended by Section 304 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, 1947, which prohibits expenditures by any labor organization in connection with any election at which Presidential and Vice Presidential electors or a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to Congress are to be voted for, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any of the foregoing offices, is unconstitutional.

We accepted jurisdiction of the Government's appeal under the Criminal Appeals Act. 18 U.S.C. § 682

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.

The briefs and arguments submitted to us support and attack the constitutionality of § 313 of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act on its face -- at least so far as unconstitutionality is declared in the above order. We do not admit any duty in this Court to pass upon such a contention on an appeal under the Criminal Appeals Act except in cases of logical necessity. United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1. Although the case turned below on the constitutionality of the provision, the Criminal Appeals Act does not require us to pass upon the constitutionality of a federal statute where the indictment does not state an offense under its terms. United States v. L. Cohen Grocery Co., 225 U.S. 81, 88, 97. Compare United States v. Carbone, 327 U.S. 633. Our first obligation is to decide whether the indictment states an offense under § 313. As we hereafter conclude that this indictment does not charge acts embraced within its scope, this opinion is limited to that issue.

Indictment. -- The presently essential parts of the indictment are set out in the margin.3 It will be noted

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that paragraph (3) does not allege the source of the CIO funds. The paragraph indicates on its face that "The CIO News" was a regularly published [68 S.Ct. 1352] weekly periodical of which the challenged issue was Vol. 10, No. 28. The funds used may have been obtained from subscriptions of its readers or from portions of CIO membership dues, directly allocated by the members to pay for the "News," or from other general or special receipts.

We do not read the indictment as charging an expenditure by the CIO in circulating free copies to nonsubscribers, nonpurchasers or among citizens not entitled to receive copies of "The CIO News," as members of the union. The indictment, count I, paragraph (3), charged the CIO with making expenditures from its funds for "the cost of distribution" of the paper, in paragraph (6)(a), with paying approximately $100 for postal charges for the challenged issue and

causing said article to be distributed in the Third Congressional District of the State of Maryland and elsewhere in connection with the special election held in that Congressional District on the fifteenth day of July, 1947.

In paragraph (6)(b), there are allegations about certain extra copies. These are set out in the marginal note 3, supra. The extras, we assume, were published pursuant to the order of Mr. Murray in the article.4 We conclude that the indictment charges nothing more as to the extras than that extra copies of the "News"

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were published for distribution and were distributed in regular course to members or purchasers, and that no allegation has been made of expenditures for "free" distribution of the paper to those not regularly entitled to receive it.

Scope of Section 313. -- The construction of this section as applied to this indictment turns on the range of the word "expenditure," added to the section by § 304 of the Labor Management Act of 1947, as indicated in note 1, supra. "Expenditure," as here used, is not a word of art. It has no definitely defined meaning, and the applicability of the word to prohibition of particular acts must be determined from the circumstances surrounding its employment. The reach of its meaning raised questions during Congressional consideration of the bill when it contained the present text of the section. Did it cover comments upon political personages and events in a corporately owned newspaper? 93 Cong.Rec. 6438. Could unincorporated trade associations make expenditures? Id., 6439. Could a union-owned radio station give time for a political speech? Id., 6439. What of comments by a radio commentator? Id., 6439. Is it an expenditure only when A is running against B, or is free, favorable publicity for prospective candidates illegal? Id., 6440. What of corporately owned religious papers supporting a candidate on moral grounds? The Anti-Saloon League? Id., 6440.

The purpose of Congress is a dominant factor in determining meaning.5 There is no better key to a difficult problem [68 S.Ct. 1353] of statutory construction than the law from which the challenged statute emerged...

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