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U.S. Supreme Court

Konigsberg v. State Bar of California, 353 U.S. 252 (1957)

Konigsberg v. State Bar of California

No. 5

Argued January 14, 1957

Decided May 6, 1957

353 U.S. 252


In 1954, the Committee of Bar Examiners of California refused to certify petitioner to practice law in that State, though he had satisfactorily passed the bar examination, on the grounds that he had failed to prove (1) that he was of good moral character, and (2) that he did not advocate forcible overthrow of the Government. He sought review by the State Supreme Court, contending that the Committee's action deprived him of rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment. The State Supreme Court denied his petition without opinion.


1. This Court has jurisdiction to review the case, and the constitutional issues are properly here. Pp. 353 U. S. 254-58.

2. The evidence in the record does not rationally support the only two grounds upon which the Committee relied in rejecting petitioner's application, and therefore the State's refusal to admit him to the bar was a denial of due process and equal protection of the laws, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 353 U. S. 258-274.

(a) That petitioner was a member of the Communist Party in 1941, if true, does not support an inference that he did not have good moral character, absent any evidence that he ever engaged in or abetted or supported any unlawful or immoral activities. Pp. 353 U. S. 266-268.

(b) An inference of bad moral character cannot rationally be drawn from editorials in which petitioner severely criticized, inter alia, this country's participation in the Korean War, the actions and policies of the leaders of the major political parties, the influence of "big business" in American life, racial discrimination, and this Court's decisions in Dennis v. United States, 341 U. S. 494, and other cases. Pp. 353 U. S. 268-269.

(c) On the record in this case, inferences of bad moral character from petitioner's refusal to answer questions about his political affiliations and opinions are unwarranted. Pp. 353 U. S. 269-271.

(d) There is no evidence in the record which rationally justifies a finding that petitioner failed to show that he did not advocate forcible overthrow of the Government. Pp. 353 U. S. 271-274. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 353 U. S. 253

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