Yates v. United States


Yates v. United States

SCOTUSCase
Litigants=Yates v. United States
ArgueDateA=October 8
ArgueDateB=9
ArgueYear=1956
DecideDate=June 17
DecideYear=1957
FullName=Yates, et al. v. United States
USVol=354
USPage=298
Citation=77 S. Ct. 1064; 1 L. Ed. 2d 1356; 1957 U.S. LEXIS 657
Prior=Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Subsequent=
Holding=The Court held that for the Smith Act to be violated, people must be encouraged to do something, rather than merely to believe in something. The Court drew a distinction between a statement of an idea and the advocacy that a certain action be taken.
SCOTUS=1957-1958
Majority=Harlan
JoinMajority=Warren, Frankfurter
Concurrence=Burton
Concurrence/Dissent=Black
JoinConcurrence/Dissent=Douglas
Dissent=Clark
NotParticipating=Brennan, Whittaker
LawsApplied=U.S. Const. amend. I

"Yates v. United States", 354 U.S. 298 (1957), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving free speech and congressional power.

Background

In 1951, 14 people were charged with violating the Smith Act for being members of the Communist Party USA in California. The Smith Act made it unlawful to advocate or organize the destruction or overthrow of any government in the United States by force. Yates claimed that his party was engaged in passive actions and that any violation of the Smith Act must involve "active" attempts to overthrow the government.

Issue

Whether Yates' First Amendment right to freedom of speech protected her advocating the forceful overthrow of the government.

Opinion

The Supreme Court of the United States said that for the Smith Act to be violated, people must be encouraged to do something, rather than merely to believe in something. The Court drew a distinction between a statement of an idea and the advocacy that a certain action be taken. The Court ruled that the Smith Act did not prohibit “advocacy of forcible overthrow of the government as an abstract doctrine.” In Justice Black's opinion, he wrote of the original Smith Act trials:

:"The testimony of witnesses is comparatively insignificant. Guilt or innocence may turn on what Marx or Engels or someone else wrote or advocated as much as a hundred years or more ago. [...] When the propriety of obnoxious or unfamiliar views about government is in reality made the crucial issue, [...] prejudice makes conviction inevitable except in the rarest circumstances."

The convictions of the indicted members were reversed.

ee also

*List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 354

External links


* [http://www.enfacto.com/case/U.S./354/298/ Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957)] (opinion full text).


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