People of State of New York Bryant v. Zimmerman, No. 2

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtVAN DEVANTER
Citation49 S.Ct. 61,278 U.S. 63,73 L.Ed. 184,62 A.L.R. 785
Docket NumberNo. 2
Decision Date19 November 1928
PartiesPEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK ex rel. BRYANT v. ZIMMERMAN et al

278 U.S. 63
49 S.Ct. 61
73 L.Ed. 184
PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK ex rel. BRYANT

v.

ZIMMERMAN et al.

No. 2.
Submitted Oct. 11, 1927.
Decided Nov. 19, 1928.

[Syllabus from pages 63-65 intentionally omitted]

Page 65

Messrs. John H. Connaughton and W. F. Zumbrunn, both of Washington, D. C., for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Walter F. Hofheins and John H. Clogston, both of Buffalo, N. Y., and Albert Ottinger, of New York City, for defendants in error.

Mr. Justice VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The relator, Bryant, who was held in custody to answer a charge of violating a statute of New York, brought a proceeding in habeas corpus in a court of that state to obtain his discharge on the ground, as was stated in the petition, that the warrant under which he was arrested and detained was issued without any jurisdiction, in that the statute which he was charged with violating was unconstitutional.

The court sustained the validity of the statute and refused to discharge him, People ex rel. Bryant v. Sheriff of Erie County, 123 Misc. Rep. 859, 206 N. Y. S. 533; and that judgment was affirmed by the Appellate Division, 213 App. Div. 414, 210 N. Y. S. 269; and by the Court of Appeals, 241 N. Y. 405, 150 N. E. 497, 43 A. L. R. 909. He them sued out the present writ of error under section 237(a) of the Judicial Code (28 USCA § 344)-his assignment of errors presented in obtaining the writ being to the effect that the Court of Appeals erroneously had held the statute valid against a contention made by him that it was invalid, because repugnant to so much of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as declares:

'No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'

Page 66

The material parts of the state statute (article 5-A, Civil Rights Law; Laws 1923, p. 1110, c. 664), are as follows:

'Sec. 53. Every existing membership corporation, and every existing unincorporated association having a membership of twenty or more persons, which corporation or association requires an oath as a prerequisite or condition of membership, other than a labor union or a benevolent order mentioned in the benevolent orders law, within thirty days after this article takes effect, and every such corporation or association hereafter organized, within ten days after the adoption thereof, shall file with the secretary of state a sworn copy of its constitution, by-laws, rules, regulations and oath of membership, together with a roster of its membership and a list of its officers for the current year. * * *'

'Sec. 56. * * * Any person who becomes a member of any such corporation or association, or remains a member thereof, or attends a meeting thereof, with knowledge that such corporation or association has failed to comply with any provision of this article, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.'

Both parties treat the case as rightly here and as presenting the question whether the state statute is repugnant to the provisions before quoted from the Fourteenth Amendment. But as consent or acquiescence of the parties does not suffice to establish our appellate jurisdiction, and some of our number have doubted the existence of such jurisdiction in this case, we now take up the question.

Section 237a of the Judicial Code (section 344, title 28, U. S. Code) provides that this court may review upon writ of error1 'a final judgment or decree in any suit' in the

Page 67

court of last resort of a state 'where is drawn, in question the validity of a statute of any state, on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, and the decision is in favor of its validity.' It is under this provision that a review is invoked.

There are various ways in which the validity of a state statute may be drawn in question on the ground that it is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. No particular form of words or phrases is essential, but only that the claim of invalidity and the ground therefor be brought to the attention of the state court with fair precision and in due time. And if the record as a whole shows either expressly or by clear intendment that this was done, the claim is to be regarded as having been adequately presented.2

Of course the decision must have been against the claim of invalidity, but it is not necessary that the ruling shall have been put in direct terms. If the necessary effect of the judgment has been to deny the claim, that is enough. 3

With these general rules in mind we turn to what is shown in this case. The petition for habeas corpus, while asserting that the state statute was 'unconstitutional,' contained no mention of any constitutional provision, state or federal. The opinion delivered by the court of

Page 68

first instance was similarly indefinite. Up to that point it is left uncertain whether the claim of invalidity was grounded on some provision of the state Constitution, or on some provision of the Constitution of the United States, or on both. If this were all, there plainly would be no basis for a review in this court. But more appears. The relator took an appeal to the Appellate Division. The appeal was not accompanied by an assignment of errors, but this was not an omission. The local practice does not recognize an assignment of errors as known in other jurisdictions; it merely requires the appellant to set forth in a printed brief 'the points to be relied on by him.' In the opinion delivered, which for present purposes is deemed part of the record,4 the Appellate Division stated distinctly that the relator's claim of invalidity was grounded on asserted repugnance to both the due process of law clause of the state Constitution and the clauses hereinbefore quoted from the Fourteenth Amendment. After so stating the claim the court considered it at length and denied it. From that decision the relator appealed to the Court of Appeals. Again the appeal was not accompanied by an assignment of errors, and for the same reason as before. See rule 7, Court of Appeals Rules. The appeal was entertained and the decision of the Appellate Division was affirmed. The Court of Appeals in its opinion does not mention the Constitution of the state or the Fourteenth Amendment, but does state that the relator was asserting the 'unconstitutionality' of the statute on the ground that it deprived him of his liberty without due process of law and denied him the equal protection of the laws, etc. Nothing in the opinion is at all indicative of an aban-

Page 69

donment by the relator of his reliance on the Fourteenth Amendment which was so distinctly stated in the opinion of the Appellate Division. On the contrary, the court's discussion of the case and its citation of authorities proceed as if it were considering the identical claim of invalidity that was presented in the Appellate Division and there denied. Among the citations are several decisions of this court dealing only with the clauses before quoted from the Fourteenth Amendment. Indeed, the opinion shows that in upholding the statute against the contention that it denies the equal protection of the laws the Court of Appeals practically rested its decision 'on the authority' of Radice v. New York, 264 U. S. 292, 296, 297, 44 S. Ct. 325, 68 L. Ed. 690. where another statute of New York assailed as in conflict with the equal protection clause of that amendment was sustained.

From this showing in the record, coupled with the absence from the state Constitution of an equal protection of the laws clause, we think it apparent that the claim of invalidity by reason of the statute's repugnance to the Fourteenth Amendment was presented to the Court of Appeals and that by its decision the statute was upheld against that claim.

Upon looking at that decision as published in the official reports (241 N. Y. 405, 150 N. E. 497, 43 A. L. R. 909), we find it stated by the reporter in his accompanying synopsis of the briefs that the brief on behalf of the relator embodied the specific claim that the statute was invalid because in conflict with the equal protection and other provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. But, as we otherwise reach the conclusion that the claim was adequately made, there is no need to notice what is said in the reporter's synopsis beyond observing that it probably points to the reason why both parties, and the Chief Judge who allowed the writ of error, treated the case as one in which the question of the validity of the statute under the Constitution of the United States had been properly presented.

Page 70

Our jurisdiction to review the decision is questioned also because of the nature of the case, it being a proceeding in habeas corpus brought to obtain the discharge of one who is held in custody to answer a charge of violating a state statute alleged to be invalid by reason of its conflict with the Constitution of the United States. But we think our jurisdiction is in this regard so well established by prior decisions and long-continued practice that it is not debatable.

In the early case of Holmes v. Jennison, 14 Pet. 540, 563, 568, 597, 614, 10 L. Ed. 579, this court held after must consideration that a proceeding in habeas corpus in a state court to obtain the release of one held in custody upon a criminal charge, where the detention is alleged to be in violation of the Constitution of the United States, is a 'suit' within the meaning of the jurisdictional statute, and that an order of the state court of last resort refusing to discharge him is a final judgment in that suit and subject to review by this court. That holding has been respected and given effect in an unbroken line of later...

To continue reading

Request your trial
151 practice notes
  • Illinois v. Gates, No. 81-430
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • October 13, 1982
    ...time." Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 584, 89 S.Ct. 1354, 1361, 22 L.Ed.2d 572 (1969) (quoting New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 67, 49 S.Ct. 61, 63, 73 L.Ed. 184 (1928)). Notwithstanding the select and controversial instances in which the Court has reversed a state cour......
  • NATIONAL ASS'N FOR ADVANCE. OF COLORED PEOPLE v. Patty, Civ. A. No. 2435
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 21, 1958
    ...Great dependence is placed upon the decision of the Supreme Court in People of State of New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 1928, 278 U.S. 63, 49 S.Ct. 61, 73 L.Ed. 184, which is described as the leading case in this field most pertinent to the matter now before the court. The Supreme Cou......
  • City of Mesquite v. Aladdin Castle, Inc, No. 80-1577
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1982
    ...state ground are considered insubstantial by the Court; Court proceeds to merits of federal issue); New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 69, 49 S.Ct. 61, 63, 73 L.Ed. 184 (1928) (Given that State Constitution has no Equal Protection Clause, Court concludes that federal law mus......
  • Street v. New York, No. 5
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1969
    ...is one for our independent decision, the controlling principle was set forth in the leading case of New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 67, 49 S.Ct. 61, 63, 73 L.Ed. 184 (1928): 'There are various ways in which the validity of a state statute may be drawn in question on the g......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
149 cases
  • Illinois v. Gates, No. 81-430
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • October 13, 1982
    ...time." Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 584, 89 S.Ct. 1354, 1361, 22 L.Ed.2d 572 (1969) (quoting New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 67, 49 S.Ct. 61, 63, 73 L.Ed. 184 (1928)). Notwithstanding the select and controversial instances in which the Court has reversed a state cour......
  • NATIONAL ASS'N FOR ADVANCE. OF COLORED PEOPLE v. Patty, Civ. A. No. 2435
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 21, 1958
    ...Great dependence is placed upon the decision of the Supreme Court in People of State of New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 1928, 278 U.S. 63, 49 S.Ct. 61, 73 L.Ed. 184, which is described as the leading case in this field most pertinent to the matter now before the court. The Supreme Cou......
  • City of Mesquite v. Aladdin Castle, Inc, No. 80-1577
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 23, 1982
    ...state ground are considered insubstantial by the Court; Court proceeds to merits of federal issue); New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 69, 49 S.Ct. 61, 63, 73 L.Ed. 184 (1928) (Given that State Constitution has no Equal Protection Clause, Court concludes that federal law mus......
  • Street v. New York, No. 5
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1969
    ...is one for our independent decision, the controlling principle was set forth in the leading case of New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 67, 49 S.Ct. 61, 63, 73 L.Ed. 184 (1928): 'There are various ways in which the validity of a state statute may be drawn in question on the g......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • A REIGN OF ERROR: PROPERTY RIGHTS AND STARE DECISIS.
    • United States
    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 99 Nbr. 2, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...top billing, see High Court Upholds New York Klan Law, N. Y. Times, Nov. 20,1928, at 1 (discussing N.Y. ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63 (105.) It is possible, though less likely, that the mistake was in the draft of the opinion that Justice Butler submitted to the printer and that ......
  • The South Counterattacks: the Anti-Naacp Laws
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 12-2, June 1959
    • June 1, 1959
    ...Klux Klan Act, never before applied 24 159 F. Supp. 503, 526 (1958). The court went to great pains to distinguish Bryant v. Zim- merman, 278 U.S. 63 (1928), which had upheld a similar registration law of New Yorkaimed at the Ku Klux Klan. "The statute [of Virginia] is not aimed, as the act ......

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