Harrison v. National Association For the Advancement of Colored People Naacp 23, 24 1959

Citation3 L.Ed.2d 1152,79 S.Ct. 1025,360 U.S. 167
Decision Date08 June 1959
Docket NumberNo. 127,127
PartiesAlbertis S. HARRISON, Jr., Attorney General of Virginia, et al., Appellants, v. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, a Corporation, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Incorporated. Arged March 23, 24, 1959
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Messrs. J. Segar Gravatt, Blackstone, Va., and David J. Mays, Richmond, Va., for appellants.

Mr. Thurgood Marshall, New York City, for appellees.

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case a three-judge District Court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2281, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2281, to hear federal constitutional challenges against five Virginia statutes. It declared three invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment, and permanently enjoined the appellants from enforcing them against the appellees; the other two statutes it found vague and ambiguous and accordingly retained jurisdiction pending a construction by the state courts. 159 F.Supp. 503. Only the former disposition was appealed. The appeal raises two questions: First, whether in the circumstances of this case the District Court should have abstained from a constitutional adjudication, retaining the cause while the parties, through appropriate proceedings, afforded the Virginia courts an opportunity to construe the three statutes in light of state and federal constitutional requirements. Second, if such an absten- tion was not called for, whether the District Court's constitutional holdings were correct. Because of our views upon the first question we do not reach the second.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Incorporated (Fund), appellees herein, are organizations engaged in furthering the rights of colored citizens. Both are membership corporations organized under the laws of New York, and have registered under the laws of Virginia as foreign corporations doing business within the State. NAACP's principal relevant activities in Virginia are appearing before legislative bodies and commissions in support of, or opposition to, measures affecting the status of the Negro race within the State, and furnishing assistance to Negroes concerned in litigation involving their constitutional rights. Fund performs functions similar to those of NAACP in the field of litigation, but is precluded by its charter from attempting to influence legislation. The revenues of NAACP are derived both from membership dues and general contributions, those of Fund entirely from contributions.

NAACP and Fund brought this action against the Attorney General of Virginia and a number of other Commonwealth officials, appellants herein, for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to Chapters 31, 32, 33, 35 and 36 of the Acts of the Virginia Assembly, passed in 1956. 4 Va.Code, 1958 Supp., §§ 18 349.9 to 18—349.37; 7 Va.Code, 1958, §§ 54—74, 54—78, 54—79. The complaint, alleging irreparable injury on account of these enactments, sought a declaration that each infringed rights assured under the Fourteenth Amendment and an injunction against its enforcement. Jurisdiction was predicated upon the civil rights statutes, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1981, 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 1343, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1343, diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332, and the presence of a federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1331.

The Attorney General and his codefendants moved to dismiss the action on the ground, among others, that the District Court should not 'exercise its jurisdiction to enjoin the enforcement of state statutes which have not been authoritatively construed by the state courts.' The District Court, recognizing 'the necessity of maintaining the delicate balance between state and federal courts under the concept of separate sovereigns,' stated that 'the constitutionality of state statutes requiring special competence in the interpretation of local law should not be determined by federal courts in advance of a reasonable opportunity afforded the parties to seek an adjudication by the state court,' but considered that relief should be granted where 'the statute is free from ambiguity and there remains no reasonable interpretation which will render it constitutional * * *.' 159 F.Supp. at pages 522, 523. On this basis, the court, one judge dissenting, held Chapters 31, 32, and 35 unconstitutional, and permanently enjoined their enforcement against NAACP and Fund. Chapters 33 and 36, on the other hand, the court unanimously found vague and ambiguous. It accordingly retained jurisdiction as to those Chapters, without reaching their constitutionality, allowing the complaining parties a reasonable time within which to obtain a state interpretation.

The Commonwealth defendants, proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 1253, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1253, appealed to this Court the lower court's disposition of Chapters 31, 32, and 35. We noted probable jurisdiction. 358 U.S. 807, 79 S.Ct. 33, 3 L.Ed.2d 53. NAACP and Fund did not appeal the disposition of Chapters 33 and 36.

The three Virginia statutes before us are lengthy, detailed, and sweeping. Chapters 31 and 32 are registration statutes. Chapter 31 deals with the rendering of financial assistance in litigation. It proscribes the public solicitation of funds, and the expenditure of funds from whatever source derived, for the commencement or fur- ther prosecution of an 'original proceeding,' by any person, broadly defined to include corporations and other entities, which is neither a party nor possessed of a 'pecuniary right or liability' in such proceeding, unless a detailed annual filing is made with the State Corporation Commission. If such person is a corporation, the filing must include among other things, (1) certified copies of its charter and by-laws; (2) 'a certified list of the names and addresses of the officers, directors, stockholders, members, agents and employees or other persons acting for or in (its) behalf;' (3) a certified statement of the sources of its income, however derived, including the names and addresses of contributors or donors if required by the Commission; (4) a detailed certified statement of the corporation's expenditures for the preceding year, the objects thereof, and whatever other information relative thereto may be required by the Commission; and (5) a certified statement of the 'counties and cities in which it proposes to or does finance or maintain litigation to which it is not a party.' Correspondingly broad disclosures are required of individuals who fall within the statutory proscription.

Violation of this Chapter is punishable as a misdemeanor for individuals, and by a fine of not more than $10,000 for corporations, plus a mandatory denial or revocation of authority to do business within the State in the case of a foreign corporation. An individual 'acting as an agent or employee' of a corporation or other entity with respect to activity violative of the Chapter is deemed guilty of a misdemeanor. And directors, officers, and 'those persons responsible for the management or control of the affairs' of a corporation or other entity are made jointly and severally liable for whatever fines might be imposed on it.

Chapter 32 deals with activities relating to the passage of racial legislation, with advocacy of 'racial integration or segregation,' and also with the raising and expenditure of funds in connection with racial litigation. Declaring that the 'continued harmonious relations between the races are * * * essential to the welfare, health and safety of the people of Virginia,' the Chapter finds it 'vital to the public interest' that registration be made with the State Corporation Commission by 'persons, firms, partnerships, corporations and associations whose activities are causing or may cause interracial tension and unrest.' Specifically, under § 2 of this Chapter, annual filings are required of

'(e)very person, firm, partnership, corporation or association, whether by or through its agents, servants, employees, officers, or voluntary workers or associates, who or which engages as one of its principal functions or activities in the promoting or opposig i n any manner the passage of legislation by the General Assembly in behalf of any race or color, or who or which has as one of its principal functions or activities the advocating of racial integration or segregation or whose activities cause or tend to cause racial conflicts or violence, or who or which is engaged or engages in raising or expending funds for the employment of counsel or payment of costs in connection with litigation in behalf of any race or color, in this State * * *.'

The extent of such filing is comparable to that required by Chapter 31. The information so furnished is a matter of public record, to 'be open to the inspection of any citizen at any time during the regular business hours of' the State Corporation Commission.

Failure to register subjects individuals to punishment as for a misdemeanor, and corporations to a fine not exceeding $10,000. Like Chapter 31, Chapter 32 also makes 'responsible' persons liable jointly and severally for corporate fines. Further, '(e)ach day's failure to register and file the information required * * * shall constitute a separate offense and he punished as such.' The Chapter is not applicable to persons or organizations which carry on the proscribed activities through matter which may qualify as second-class mail in the United States mails, or by radio or television, nor to persons or organizations acting in connection with any political campaign.

Chapter 35 is a 'barratry' statute. Barratry is defined as 'the offense of stirring up litigation.' A 'barrator' is thus a person or organization which 'stirs up litigation.' Stirring up litigation means 'instigating,' which in turn 'means bringing it about that all or part of the expenses of the litigation are paid...

To continue reading

Request your trial
408 cases
  • Fitts v. Kolb
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • November 20, 1991
    ...37 312 U.S. 496, 61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971 (1941). 38 See id. at 499-500, 61 S.Ct. at 644-45; see also Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167, 176, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 1030, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152 (1959) ("the federal courts should not adjudicate the constitutionality of state enactments fairly open to interp......
  • Klim v. Jones
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of California
    • July 17, 1970
    ...983 (1953). See also Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 376-377, 84 S.Ct. 1316, 12 L. Ed.2d 377 (1964); Harrison v. N.A.A. C.P., 360 U.S. 167, 176, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 3 L. Ed.2d 1152 (1959). Abstention has also been held proper when the issue was whether, as a matter of state law, an ordinance w......
  • Grove Press, Inc. v. Bailey
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama
    • August 14, 1970
    ...that a particular State statute is unconstitutional does not in and of itself merit injunctive relief, Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152 (1959). The Court recognized in Dombrowski that "federal interference with a state's good faith administration of its crimina......
  • Jehovah's Witnesses in State of Wash. v. King County Hosp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Washington
    • June 8, 1967
    ...adjudication." Harman v. Forssenius, 380 U.S. 528, 534, 85 S.Ct. 1177, 1182, 14 L.Ed.2d 50 (1965). 12 See Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152 (1959), where there was a finding that the state law was uncertain and abstention was ordered. In NAACP v. Bennett, 360 U.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Issues Relating to Parallel Litigation
    • United States
    • ABA Antitrust Library Business Torts and Unfair Competition Handbook Business tort litigation
    • January 1, 2014
    ...challenges to broadly written 39. See, e.g., Hawaii Hous. Auth. v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229, 236-237 (1983); Harrison v. NAACP, 360 U.S. 167 (1959); Biegenwald v. Fauver, 882 F.2d 748 (3d Cir. 1989). 40. See, e.g., Hawaii Hous. Auth., 467 U.S. at 237; Lind v. Grimmer, 859 F. Supp. 1317 (D. Haw......
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 66 No. 3, March 2021
    • March 22, 2021
    ...a Virginia law that had banned racial integration "was not supported by a compelling state interest or some clear and present danger." 360 U.S. 167, 175 (1959). In Harrison, the state statutory use of the phrase clear and present danger was in a declaration by the Virginia General Assembly ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT