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U.S. Supreme Court

Konigsberg v. State Bar of California, 366 U.S. 36 (1961)

Konigsberg v. State Bar of California

No. 28

Argued December 14, 1960

Decided April 24, 1961

366 U.S. 36


Under California law, the State Supreme Court may admit to the practice of law any applicant whose qualifications have been certified to it by the California Committee of Bar Examiners. In hearings by that Committee on his application for admission to the Bar, petitioner refused to answer any questions pertaining to his membership in the Communist Party, not on the ground of possible self-incrimination, but on the ground that such inquiries were beyond the purview of the Committee's authority and infringed rights of free thought, association and expression assured him under the State and Federal Constitutions. The Committee declined to certify him as qualified for admission to the Bar on the ground that his refusals to answer had obstructed a full investigation into his qualifications. The State Supreme Court denied him admission to practice.

Held: Denial of petitioner's application for admission to the Bar on this ground did not violate his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 366 U. S. 37-56.

(a) The State's refusal to admit petitioner to practice on the ground that his refusal to answer the Committee's questions had thwarted a full investigation into his qualifications was not inconsistent with this Court's decision in Konigsberg v. State Bar, 353 U. S. 252. Pp. 366 U. S. 40-44.

(b) The Fourteenth Amendment's protection against arbitrary state action does not forbid a State from denying admission to a bar applicant so long as he refuses to answer questions having a substantial relevance to his qualifications, and California's application of such a rule in this instance cannot be said to have been arbitrary or discriminatory. Pp. 366 U. S. 44-49.

(c) Petitioner was not privileged to refuse to answer questions concerning membership in the Communist Party on the ground that they impinged upon rights of free speech and association protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Speiser v. Randall, 357 U. S. 513, distinguished. Pp. 366 U. S. 49-56.

52 Cal.2d 769, 344 P.2d 777, affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 366 U. S. 37

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