357 U.S. 449 (1958), 91, National Association for the Advancement of

Docket Nº:No. 91
Citation:357 U.S. 449, 78 S.Ct. 1163, 2 L.Ed.2d 1488
Party Name:National Association for the Advancement of
Case Date:June 30, 1958
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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357 U.S. 449 (1958)

78 S.Ct. 1163, 2 L.Ed.2d 1488

National Association for the Advancement of

No. 91

United States Supreme Court

June 30, 1958

Colored People v. Patterson

Argued January 15-16, 1958

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA

Syllabus

Petitioner is a nonprofit membership corporation organized under the laws of New York for the purpose of advancing the welfare of Negroes. It operates through chartered affiliates which are independent unincorporated associations, with membership therein equivalent to membership in petitioner. It had local affiliates in Alabama, and opened an office of its own there without complying with an Alabama statute which, with some exceptions, requires a foreign corporation to qualify before doing business in the State by filing its corporate charter and designating a place of business and an agent to receive service of process. Alleging that petitioner's activities were causing irreparable injury to the citizens of the State for which criminal prosecution and civil actions at law afforded no adequate relief, the State brought an equity suit in a state court to enjoin petitioner from conducting further activities in, and to oust it from, the State. The court issued an ex parte order restraining petitioner, pendente lite, from engaging in further activities in the State and from taking any steps to qualify to do business there. Petitioner moved to dissolve the restraining order, and the court, on the State's motion, ordered the production of many of petitioner's records, including its membership lists. After some delay, petitioner produced substantially all the data called for except its membership lists. It was adjudged in contempt, and fined $100,000 for failure to produce the lists. The State Supreme Court denied certiorari to review the contempt judgment, and this Court granted certiorari.

Held:

1. Denial of relief by the State Supreme Court did not rest on an adequate state ground, and this Court has jurisdiction to entertain petitioner's federal claims. Pp. 454-458.

2. Petitioner has a right to assert on behalf of its members a claim that they are entitled under the Federal Constitution to be protected from being compelled by the State to disclose their affiliation with the Association. Pp. 458-460.

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3. Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner's membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner's members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. The State has failed to show a controlling justification for the deterrent effect on the free enjoyment of the right to associate which disclosure of petitioner's membership lists is likely to have. Accordingly, the judgment of civil contempt and the fine which resulted from petitioner's refusal to produce its membership lists must fall. Pp. 460-466.

(a) Freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the "liberty" assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 460-461.

(b) In the circumstances of this case, compelled disclosure of petitioner's membership lists is likely to constitute an effective restraint on its members' freedom of association. Pp. 461-463.

(c) Whatever interest the State may have in obtaining the names of petitioner's ordinary members, it has not been shown to be sufficient to overcome petitioner's constitutional objections to the production order. Pp. 463-466.

4. The question whether the state court's temporary restraining order preventing petitioner from soliciting support in the State violates the Fourteenth Amendment is not properly before this Court, since the merits of the controversy have not been passed on by the state courts. Pp. 466-467.

265 Ala. 349, 91 So.2d 214, reversed, and cause remanded.

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HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We review from the standpoint of its validity under the Federal Constitution a judgment of civil contempt entered against petitioner, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in the courts of Alabama. The question presented is whether Alabama, consistently with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, can compel petitioner to reveal to the State's Attorney General the names and addresses of all its Alabama members and agents, without regard to their positions or functions in the Association. The judgment of contempt was based upon petitioner's refusal to comply fully with a court order requiring in part the production of membership lists. Petitioner's claim is that the order, in the circumstances shown by this record, violated rights assured to petitioner and its members under the Constitution .

Alabama has a statute, similar to those of many other States, which requires a foreign corporation, except as exempted, to qualify before doing business by filing its corporate charter with the Secretary of State and designating a place of business and an agent to receive service of process. The statute imposes a fine on a corporation transacting intrastate business before qualifying, and provides for criminal prosecution of officers of such a corporation. Ala.Code, 1940, Tit. 10, §§ 192-198. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a nonprofit membership corporation organized under the laws of New York. Its purposes, fostered on a nationwide basis, are those indicated by its name, * and it operates

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through chartered affiliates which are independent unincorporated associations, with membership therein equivalent to membership in petitioner. The first Alabama affiliates were chartered in 1918. Since that time, the aims of the Association have been advanced through activities of its affiliates, and, in 1951, the Association itself opened a regional office in Alabama, at which it employed two supervisory persons and one clerical worker. The Association has never complied with the qualification statute, from which it considered itself exempt.

In 1956, the Attorney General of Alabama brought an equity suit in the State Circuit Court, Montgomery County, to [78 S.Ct. 1167] enjoin the Association from conducting further activities within, and to oust it from, the State. Among other things, the bill in equity alleged that the Association had opened a regional office and had organized various affiliates in Alabama; had recruited members and solicited contributions within the State; had given financial support and furnished legal assistance to Negro students seeking admission to the state university, and had supported a Negro boycott of the bus lines in Montgomery to compel the seating of passengers without regard to race. The bill recited that the Association, by continuing to do business in Alabama without complying with the qualification statute, was

. . . causing irreparable injury to the property and civil rights of the residents and citizens of the State of Alabama for which criminal prosecution and civil actions at law afford no adequate relief. . . .

On the day the complaint was filed, the Circuit Court issued ex parte an order restraining the Association, pendente lite, from engaging in

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further activities within the State and forbidding it to take any steps to qualify itself to do business therein.

Petitioner demurred to the allegations of the bill and moved to dissolve the restraining order. It contended that its activities did not subject it to the qualification requirements of the statute and that, in any event, what the State sought to accomplish by its suit would violate rights to freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Before the date set for a hearing on this motion, the State moved for the production of a large number of the Association's records and papers, including bank statements, leases, deeds, and records containing the names and addresses of all Alabama "members" and "agents" of the Association. It alleged that all such documents were necessary for adequate preparation for the hearing, in view of petitioner's denial of the conduct of intrastate business within the meaning of the qualification statute. Over petitioner's objections, the court ordered the production of a substantial part of the requested records, including the membership lists, and postponed the hearing on the restraining order to...

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