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U.S. Supreme Court

Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization, 307 U.S. 496 (1939)

Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization

No. 651

Argued February 27, 28, 1939

Decided June 5, 1939

307 U.S. 496


In a suit to enjoin municipal officers from enforcing ordinances forbidding the distribution of printed matter, and the holding without permits of public meetings, in streets and other public places,


1. The case is within the jurisdiction of the District Court. Pp. 512- 307 U. S. 513, 307 U. S. 525.

2. The ordinances and their enforcement violate the rights under the Constitution of the individual plaintiffs, citizens of the United States; but a complaining corporation cannot claim such rights. P. 307 U. S. 514.

3. The ordinances are void. Pp. 307 U. S. 516, 307 U. S. 518. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 307 U. S. 497

4. Provisions of the decree enjoining forcible removal of plaintiffs or exercise of personal restraint over them without warrant, or confinement without lawful arrest and production for prompt judicial hearing, saving lawful search and seizure, or interference with their free access to streets, parks or public places of the city -- are not vague and impracticable. P. 307 U. S. 517.

5. The decree properly enjoined interference with the right of plaintiffs, their agents etc., to communicate their views as individuals to others on the streets in an orderly and peaceable manner, reserving the right of defendants to enforce law and order by lawful search and seizure or arrest. P. 307 U. S. 517.

6. Insofar as the decree relates to distribution of literature and holding of meetings, the decree should enjoin enforcement of the void ordinances, and not undertake to enumerate the conditions under which those activities may he carried on. P. 307 U. S. 518.


PER ROBERTS, J., with whom BLACK, J., concurred. The CHIEF JUSTICE concurred in part (p. 307 U. S. 532).

1. The District Court lacked jurisdiction under Jud.Code § 24(1). P. 307 U. S. 508.

(a) In suits under § 24(1), a traverse of the allegation as to the amount in controversy, or a motion to dismiss based upon the absence of such amount calls for substantial proof on the part of the plaintiff of facts justifying the conclusion that the suit involves the necessary sum. P. 307 U. S. 507.

(b) The record in this suit is bare of any showing of the value of the asserted rights to the complainants individually. P. 307 U. S. 508.

(c) Complainants may not aggregate their interests in order to attain the requisite jurisdictional amount. P. 307 U. S. 508.

2. The District Court had jurisdiction under Jud.Code, § 24(14). P. 307 U. S. 513.

(a) Freedom to disseminate information concerning the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, to assemble peaceably for discussion of the Act and of the opportunities and advantages offered by it, is a privilege or immunity of a citizen of the United States secured against state abridgment by § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and R.S. § 1979 and Jud.Code § 24(14) afford redress in a federal court for such abridgment. P. 307 U. S. 512.

(b) Natural persons alone are entitled to the privileges and immunities which § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment secures to chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 307 U. S. 498

"citizens of the United States." Only the individual complainants may maintain this suit. P. 307 U. S. 514.

3. The privilege of a citizen of the United States to use the streets and parks for communication of views on national questions may be regulated in the interest of all; it is not absolute, but relative, and must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but it must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied. Distinguishing Davis v. Massachusetts, 167 U. S. 43. P. 307 U. S. 515.

4. The ordinance here in question, which forbids public assembly in the streets or parks of the city without a permit from the Director of Safety, who may refuse such permit upon his mere opinion that such refusal will prevent "riots, disturbances or disorderly assemblage," is void upon its face. P. 307 U. S. 516.

It does not make comfort or convenience in the use of the streets or parks the standard of official action, and can be made the instrument of arbitrary suppression of free expression of views on national affairs. Uncontrolled official sup