383 U.S. 745 (1966), 65, United States v. Guest

Docket Nº:No. 65
Citation:383 U.S. 745, 86 S.Ct. 1170, 16 L.Ed.2d 239
Party Name:United States v. Guest
Case Date:March 28, 1966
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 745

383 U.S. 745 (1966)

86 S.Ct. 1170, 16 L.Ed.2d 239

United States

v.

Guest

No. 65

United States Supreme Court

March 28, 1966

Argued November 9, 1965

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

Syllabus

Appellees, six private individuals, were indicted under 18 U.S.C. § 241 for conspiring to deprive Negro citizens in the vicinity of Athens, Georgia, of the free exercise and enjoyment of rights secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States, viz., the right to use state facilities without discrimination on the basis of race, the right freely to engage in interstate travel, and the right to equal enjoyment of privately owned places of public accommodation, now guaranteed by Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The indictment specified various means by which the objects of the conspiracy would be achieved, including causing the arrest of Negroes by means of false reports of their criminal acts. The District Court dismissed the indictment on the ground that it did not involve rights which are attributes of national citizenship, to which it deemed § 241 solely applicable. The court also held the public accommodation allegation legally inadequate for failure to allege discriminatory motivation which the court thought essential to charge an interference with a right secured by Title II, and because the enforcement remedies in Title II were deemed exclusive. The United States appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act.

Held:

1. This Court has no jurisdiction under the Criminal Appeals Act to review the invalidation of that portion of the indictment concerning interference with the right to use public accommodations, the District Court's ruling with respect thereto being based, at least alternatively, not on a construction of a statute, but on what the court conceived to be a pleading defect. Pp. 749-752.

2. The allegation in the indictment of state involvement in the conspiracy charged under § 241 was sufficient to charge a violation of rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 753-757.

(a) Section 241 includes within its coverage Fourteenth Amendment rights whether arising under the Equal Protection

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Clause, as in this case, or under the Due Process Clause, as in United States v. Price, post, p. 787. P. 753.

(b) As construed to protect Fourteenth Amendment rights § 241 is not unconstitutionally vague, since, by virtue of its being a conspiracy statute it operates only against an offender acting with specific intent to infringe the right in question (Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91) and the right to equal use of public facilities described in the indictment has been made definite by decisions of this Court. Pp. 753-754.

(c) The State's involvement need be neither exclusive nor direct in order to create rights under the Equal Protection Clause. P. 755-756.

(d) The allegation concerning the arrest of Negroes by means of false reports was sufficiently broad to cover a charge of active connivance by state agents or other official discriminatory conduct constituting a denial of rights protected by the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 756-757.

3. Section 241 reaches conspiracies specifically directed against the exercise of the constitutional right to travel freely from State to State and to use highways and other instrumentalities for that purpose; the District Court therefore erred in dismissing the branch of the indictment relating to that right. Pp. 757-760.

246 F.Supp. 475, reversed and remanded.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The six defendants in this case were indicted by a United States grand jury in the Middle District of

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Georgia for criminal conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. 241 (1964 ed.). That section provides in relevant part:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;

* * * *

They shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

In five numbered paragraphs, the indictment alleged a single conspiracy by the defendants to deprive Negro citizens of the free exercise and enjoyment of several specified rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.1 The [86 S.Ct. 1173] defendants moved to dismiss

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the indictment on the ground that it did not charge an offense under the laws of the United States. The District Court sustained the motion and dismissed the indictment as to all defendants and all numbered paragraphs of the indictment. 246 F.Supp. 475.

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The United States appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3731.2 We postponed decision of the question of our jurisdiction to the hearing on the merits. 381 U.S. 932. It is now apparent that this Court does not have jurisdiction to decide one of the issues sought to be raised on this direct appeal. As to the other issues, however, our appellate jurisdiction is clear, and, for the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the District Court. As in United States v. Price, post, p. 787, decided today, we deal here with issues of statutory construction, not with issues of constitutional power.

I

The first numbered paragraph of the indictment, reflecting a portion of the language of § 201(a) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(a) (1964 ed.), alleged that the defendants conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate Negro citizens in the free exercise and enjoyment of:

The right to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of motion picture theaters, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation.3

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The District Court held that this paragraph of the indictment failed to state an offense against rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The court found a fatal flaw in the failure [86 S.Ct. 1174] of the paragraph to include an allegation that the acts of the defendants were motivated by racial discrimination, an allegation the court thought essential to charge an interference with rights secured by Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.4 The court went on to say that, in any event, 18 U.S.C. § 241 is not an available sanction to protect rights secured by that title because § 207(b) of the 1964 Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-6(b) (1964 ed.), specifies that the remedies provided in Title II itself are

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to be the exclusive means of enforcing the rights the title secures.5

A direct appeal to this Court is available to the United States under the Criminal Appeals Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3731, from

a decision or judgment . . . dismissing any indictment . . . or any count thereof, where such decision or judgment is based upon the . . . construction of the statute upon which the indictment . . . is founded.

In the present case, however, the District Court's judgment as to the first paragraph of the indictment was based, at least alternatively, upon its determination that this paragraph was defective as a matter of pleading. Settled principles of review under the Criminal Appeals Act therefore preclude our review of the District Court's judgment on this branch of the indictment. In United States v. Borden Co., 308 U.S. 188, Chief Justice Hughes, speaking for a unanimous Court, set out these principles with characteristic clarity:

The established principles governing our review are these: (1) Appeal does not lie from a judgment which rests on the mere deficiencies of the indictment

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as a pleading, as distinguished from a construction of the statute which underlies the indictment. (2) Nor will an appeal lie in a case where the District Court has considered the construction of the statute, but has also rested its decision upon the independent ground of a defect in pleading which is not subject to our [86 S.Ct. 1175] examination. In that case, we cannot disturb the judgment and the question of construction becomes abstract. (3) This Court must accept the construction given to the indictment by the District Court as that is a matter we are not authorized to review. . . .

308 U.S. at 193. See also United States v. Swift & Co., 318 U.S. 442, 444. The result is not changed by the circumstance that we have jurisdiction over this appeal as to the other paragraphs of the indictment. United States v. Board, supra, involved an indictment comparable to the present one for the purposes of jurisdiction under the Criminal Appeals Act. In Borden, the District Court had held all four counts of the indictment invalid as a matter of construction of the Sherman Act, but had also held the third count defective as a matter of pleading. The Court accepted jurisdiction on direct appeal as to the first, second, and fourth counts of the indictment, but it dismissed the appeal as to the third count for want of jurisdiction. "The Government's appeal does not open the whole case." 308 U.S. 188, 193.

It is hardly necessary to add that our ruling as to the Court's lack of jurisdiction now to review this aspect of the case implies no opinion whatsoever as to the correctness either of the District Court's appraisal of this paragraph of the indictment as a matter of pleading or of the court's view of the preclusive effect of § 207(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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II

The second numbered paragraph of the indictment alleged that the defendants conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and...

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