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HERNDON V. LOWRY, 301 U. S. 242 (1937)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Herndon v. Lowry, 301 U.S. 242 (1937)

Herndon v. Lowry

Nos. 474 and 475

Argued February 8, 1937

Decided April 26, 1937

301 U.S. 242


1. A federal constitutional question going to the validity of a conviction of crime under a state statute was not decided on an appeal to the state supreme court because not properly raised (see Herndon v. Georgia, 295 U. S. 441). Afterwards, that court considered the question and decided it against the convict, in a habeas corpus proceeding. Held, that the scope of habeas corpus, in the circumstances, was a local question, and that the ruling on the federal question was open to review by this Court. P. 301 U. S. 247.

2. A state statute punishing as a crime the acts of soliciting members for a political party and conducting meetings of a local unit of that party, where one of the doctrines of the party, established by reference to a document not shown to have been exhibited to anyone by the accused, may be said to be ultimate resort to violence in the indefinite future against organized government, unwarrantably invades the liberty of free speech and so violates the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 301 U. S. 260.

3. The power of a State to abridge freedom of speech and of assembly is the exception, rather than the rule; and the penalizing even of utterances of a defined character must find its justification in a reasonable apprehension of danger to organized government. The limitation upon individual liberty must have appropriate relation to the safety of the State. Legislation which goes beyond this need violates the Constitution. P. 301 U. S. 258.

4. The affirmance by the Supreme Court of a State of a conviction under a statute as having support in the evidence necessarily construes the statute as authorizing punishment for the act so proven. P. 301 U. S. 255.

5. Section 56 of the Penal Code of Georgia, as construed by the Supreme Court of the State, punishes, as an attempt to incite to insurrection, any attempt to induce others to join in any combined resistance to the lawful authority of the State. As an element, the accused must have contemplated resistance by force, but in this respect he may be found guilty if he intended that an insurrection

"should happen during any time within which he might reasonably expect his influence to continue to be directly

Page 301 U. S. 243

operative in causing such action by those whom he sought to induce."

Held, that the statute, as construed and applied in this case, is repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment in that it furnishes no sufficiently ascertainable standard of guilt and interferes unduly with freedom of speech and of assembly. Pp. 301 U. S. 253, 301 U. S. 261.

12 Ga. 582, 186 S.E. 429, reversed.

Appeals from judgments, rendered on cross-appeals, in a habeas corpus proceeding. The court below sustained the trial court in deciding that the criminal statute involved did not infringe liberty of speech and assembly, but differed with its holding that the statute was too vague and indefinite, and reversed its decision discharging the appellant here.

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