Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan 8212 21, No. 70

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation92 S.Ct. 1716,32 L.Ed.2d 317,406 U.S. 583
PartiesSOCIALIST LABOR PARTY et al., Appellants, v. John J. GILLIGAN, Governor of the State of Ohio, et al. —21
Decision Date30 May 1972
Docket NumberNo. 70

406 U.S. 583
92 S.Ct. 1716
32 L.Ed.2d 317
SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY et al., Appellants,

v.

John J. GILLIGAN, Governor of the State of Ohio, et al.

No. 70—21.
May 30, 1972.

Syllabus

Appellant political party, its officers, and members, attacked the constitutionality of revisions of the Ohio election code made following this Court's decision in Socialist Labor Party v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24, and a provision that a political party execute a loyalty affidavit under oath in order to obtain a ballot position. The District Court, deciding the case on cross-motions for summary judgment on the basis of the pleadings and supporting affidavits, upheld all appellants' challenges except that involving the oath provision. All parties appealed. A revision of the election code made after this Court noted probable jurisdiction mooted all but the oath issue. Appellants, who did not attack the oath provision in Rhodes and who have been on the ballot and presumably have complied with that provision since its adoption in 1941, contend that it violates the First Amendment, is impermissibly vague, does not comport with due process, and, since it applies to them and not the two major political parties, violates equal protection. Held: The record and pleadings on the one issue not mooted by the supervening legislation (an issue that received scant attention in appellants' complaint and none in the affidavits supporting the cross-motions for summary judgment) are inadequate for resolution of the constitutional questions presented, and in view of the abstract and speculative posture of the case the appeal must therefore be dismissed. Rescue Army v. Municipal Court, 331 U.S. 549, 67 S.Ct. 1409, 91 L.Ed. 1666. Pp. 585—589.

D.C., 318 F.Supp. 1262, appeal dismissed.

Sanford Jay Rosen, New York City, for appellants.

Page 584

Donald J. Guittar, Asst. Atty. Gen., Columbus, Ohio, for appellees.

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant Socialist Labor Party has engaged in a prolonged legal battle to invalidate various Ohio laws restricting minority party access to the ballot. Concluding that 'the totality of the Ohio restrictive laws taken as a whole' violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, this Court struck down those laws in Socialist Labor Party v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 34, 89 S.Ct. 5, 12, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968).1 Following that decision the Ohio Legislature revised the state election code, but the Party was dissatisfied with the revisions and instituted the present suit in 1970.

The Socialist Labor Party, its officers, and members joined as plaintiffs in requesting a three-judge District Court to invalidate on constitutional grounds various sections of the revised election laws of Ohio. The plaintiffs specifically challenged provisions of the Ohio election laws requiring that a party either receive a certain percentage of the vote cast in the last preceding election or else file petitions of qualified electors corresponding to the same percentage; provisions relating to the organizational structure of a party; provisions requiring that a political party elect a specified number of delegates and alternates to a state convention; and provisions requiring a party to be part of a national political party that holds national conventions at which delegates elected in state primaries nominate presidential and vice-

Page 585

presidential candidates. In addition, they challenged that part of the Ohio election code requiring a political party to file an affidavit under oath stating in substance that the party is not engaged in an attempt to overthrow the government by force or violence, is not associated with a group making such an attempt, and does not carry on a program of sedition or treason as defined by the criminal law.

The case was decided on cross-motions for summary judgment, the three-judge District Court having before it the complaint and answer of the respective parties, and affidavits filed pursuant to Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 56. The court ruled on the merits in favor of all of appellants' constitutional challenges to the Ohio election laws except that involving the oath requirement, with respect to which it ruled in favor of the appellees. Both sides appealed to this Court, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 401 U.S. 991, 91 S.Ct. 1223, 28 L.Ed.2d 529 (1971).

Since then, the posture of this litigation has undergone a significant change. On December 23, 1971, the Ohio Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 460, which embodied an extensive revision of the state election code. Both sides now agree that the passage of this Act renders moot all but one of the issues decided below. The one challenged provision that remains unamended is the State's requirement that a political party execute the above-described affidavit under oath in order to obtain a position on the ballot.

Appellants' 1970 complaint represented a broadside attack against interrelated and allegedly overly restrictive provisions of the Ohio election laws. The three-judge District Court, in its ruling for the appellants on the issues that have now become moot, stated:

'The 1969 amendments to the election laws merely perpetuate the restrictive laws enacted between 1948 and 1952. The overall effect of these laws

Page 586

is still to deny to plaintiffs their constitutional right of political associations.' 318 F.Supp. 1262, 1269—1270 (footnote omitted).

Thus appellants, at the time they filed their 1970 action, were fenced out of the political process by a series of restrictive provisions that prevented them from making any progress toward a position on the ballot as a designated political party. Their challenge was necessarily of a somewhat abstract character, since under their allegations they were able to comply with very few of the provisions regulating access to the ballot. Now, however, with the enactment of a revised election code, the abstract character of the single remaining challenge to the Ohio election procedures stands out all the more.

Appellants did not in their action that came here in 1968 challenge the loyalty oath. Their 1970 complaint respecting the loyalty oath is singularly sparse in its factual allegations. There is no suggestion in it that the Socialist Labor Party has ever refused in the past, or will now refuse, to sign the required oath. There is no allegation of injury that the party has suffered or will suffer because of the existence of the oath requirement.

It is fairly inferable that the absence of such allegations is not merely an oversight in the drafting of a pleading. The requirement of the affidavit under oath was enacted in 1941, 119 Ohio Laws 586, and has remained continuously in force since that date. The Socialist Labor Party has appeared on the state ballot since the law's passage, and, unless the state officials have ignored what appear to be mandatory oath provisions, it is reasonable to conclude that the party has in the past executed the required affidavit.

It is axiomatic that the federal courts do not decide abstract questions posed by parties who lack 'a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.' Baker v.

Page 587

Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962); Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 101, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 1953, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). Appellants argue that the affidavit requirement violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, but their pleadings fail to allege that the requirement has in any way affected their speech or conduct, or that executing the oath would impair the exercise of any right that they have as a political party or as members of a political party. They contend that to require it of them but not of the two major political parties denies them equal protection, but they do not allege any particulars that make the requirement other than a hypothetical burden. Finally, they claim that the required affidavit is impermissibly vague and that its enforcement procedures do not comport with due process. But the record before the three-judge District Court, and now before this Court, is extraordinarily skimpy in the sort of proved or admitted facts that would enable us to adjudicate this claim. Since appellants have previously secured a position on the ballot with no untoward consequences, the gravamen of their claim that it injures them remains quite unclear.

In the usual case in which this Court has passed on the validity of similar oath provisions, the party challenging constitutionality was either unable or unwilling to execute the required oath and, in the circumstances of the particular case, sustained, or faced the immediate prospect of sustaining, some direct injury as a result of the penalty provisions associated with the oath. See, e.g., Cole v. Richardson, 405 U.S. 676, 92 S.Ct. 1332, 31 L.Ed.2d 593 (1972); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 87 S.Ct. 675, 17 L.Ed.2d 629 (1967); Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183, 73 S.Ct. 215, 97 L.Ed. 216 (1952).

In Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction, 368 U.S. 278, 283 285, 82 S.Ct. 275, 278—280, 7 L.Ed.2d 285 (1961), the appellants were public school teachers who had been threatened with discharge for their refusal to execute the required oath. The Court held that even though appellants might be able to sign the

Page 588

required oath in good conscience, the record there indicated that they would still be subject to possible hazards of a perjury conviction by reason of the vagueness of the oath's language. In the present case, however, appellants have apparently signed the oath at previous times, and so far as this record shows they have suffered no injury as a result. The State has never questioned the truth of the affidavit, and appellants' conduct and associations have not been constricted as a result of their having executed the affidavit.

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126 practice notes
  • Clark v. Valeo, No. 76-1825
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 6, 1977
    ...96 S.Ct. at 681-682, 46 L.Ed.2d 744. 29 Id. at 114, 96 S.Ct. at 680, 46 L.Ed.2d at 742, quoting Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588, 92 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 32 L.Ed.2d 317, 322 30 Buckley v. Valeo, supra note 10, 424 U.S. at 117, 96 S.Ct. at 681, 46 L.Ed.2d at 743. We ourselve......
  • Dornan v. Sanchez, No. SA CV 97-176-GLT[CC].
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • September 23, 1997
    ...unless the case `tenders the underlying constitutional issues in clean-cut and concrete form.'" Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588, 92 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 32 L.Ed.2d 317 (1972) (quoting Rescue Army, 331 U.S. at 584, 67 S.Ct. at But, it is also well-settled that "a defendant'......
  • CBY Design Builders v. United States, No. 11-740 C
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 11, 2012
    ...164, 168 (2005) (citing Suitum v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 520 U.S. 725, 733-34 (1997)); see also Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588 (1972) (explaining that due to ripeness considerations "even when jurisdiction exists it should not be exercised"). In a case involving ......
  • Young v. Klutznick, Nos. 80-1751
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • June 15, 1981
    ...exceptional case." Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 114, 96 S.Ct. 612, 680, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976), quoting Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588, 92 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 32 L.Ed.2d 317 (1972). Such questions of ripeness, the Court has held, are resolved through two inquiries. Court......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
126 cases
  • Clark v. Valeo, No. 76-1825
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 6, 1977
    ...96 S.Ct. at 681-682, 46 L.Ed.2d 744. 29 Id. at 114, 96 S.Ct. at 680, 46 L.Ed.2d at 742, quoting Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588, 92 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 32 L.Ed.2d 317, 322 30 Buckley v. Valeo, supra note 10, 424 U.S. at 117, 96 S.Ct. at 681, 46 L.Ed.2d at 743. We ourselve......
  • Dornan v. Sanchez, No. SA CV 97-176-GLT[CC].
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • September 23, 1997
    ...unless the case `tenders the underlying constitutional issues in clean-cut and concrete form.'" Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588, 92 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 32 L.Ed.2d 317 (1972) (quoting Rescue Army, 331 U.S. at 584, 67 S.Ct. at But, it is also well-settled that "a defendant'......
  • CBY Design Builders v. United States, No. 11-740 C
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 11, 2012
    ...164, 168 (2005) (citing Suitum v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 520 U.S. 725, 733-34 (1997)); see also Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588 (1972) (explaining that due to ripeness considerations "even when jurisdiction exists it should not be exercised"). In a case involving ......
  • Young v. Klutznick, Nos. 80-1751
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • June 15, 1981
    ...exceptional case." Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 114, 96 S.Ct. 612, 680, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976), quoting Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588, 92 S.Ct. 1716, 1719, 32 L.Ed.2d 317 (1972). Such questions of ripeness, the Court has held, are resolved through two inquiries. Court......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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