NAACP V. PATTERSON, 357 U. S. 449 (1958)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NAACP v. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 (1958)

National Association for the Advancement of

Colored People v. Patterson

No. 91

Argued January 15-16, 1958

Decided June 30, 1958

357 U.S. 449


Petitioner is a nonprofit membership corporation organized under the laws of New York for the purpose of advancing the welfare of Negroes. It operates through chartered affiliates which are independent unincorporated associations, with membership therein equivalent to membership in petitioner. It had local affiliates in Alabama, and opened an office of its own there without complying with an Alabama statute which, with some exceptions, requires a foreign corporation to qualify before doing business in the State by filing its corporate charter and designating a place of business and an agent to receive service of process. Alleging that petitioner's activities were causing irreparable injury to the citizens of the State for which criminal prosecution and civil actions at law afforded no adequate relief, the State brought an equity suit in a state court to enjoin petitioner from conducting further activities in, and to oust it from, the State. The court issued an ex parte order restraining petitioner, pendente lite, from engaging in further activities in the State and from taking any steps to qualify to do business there. Petitioner moved to dissolve the restraining order, and the court, on the State's motion, ordered the production of many of petitioner's records, including its membership lists. After some delay, petitioner produced substantially all the data called for except its membership lists. It was adjudged in contempt, and fined $100,000 for failure to produce the lists. The State Supreme Court denied certiorari to review the contempt judgment, and this Court granted certiorari.


1. Denial of relief by the State Supreme Court did not rest on an adequate state ground, and this Court has jurisdiction to entertain petitioner's federal claims. Pp. 357 U. S. 454-458.

2. Petitioner has a right to assert on behalf of its members a claim that they are entitled under the Federal Constitution to be protected from being compelled by the State to disclose their affiliation with the Association. Pp. 357 U. S. 458-460. chanrobles.com-red

Page 357 U. S. 450

3. Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner's membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner's members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. The State has failed to show a controlling justification for the deterrent effect on the free enjoyment of the right to associate which disclosure of petitioner's membership lists is likely to have. Accordingly, the judgment of civil contempt and the fine which resulted from petitioner's refusal to produce its membership lists must fall. Pp. 357 U. S. 460-466.

(a) Freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the "liberty" assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 357 U. S. 460-461.

(b) In the circumstances of this case, compelled disclosure of petitioner's membership lists is likely to constitute an effective restraint on its members' freedom of association. Pp. 357 U. S. 461-463.

(c) Whatever interest the State may have in obtaining the names of petitioner's ordinary members, it has not been shown to be sufficient to overcome petitioner's constitutional objections to the production order. Pp. 357 U. S. 463-466.

4. The question whether the state court's temporary restraining order preventing petitioner from soliciting support in the State violates the Fourteenth Amendment is not properly before this Court, since the merits of the controversy have not been passed on by the state courts. Pp. 357 U. S. 466-467.

265 Ala. 349, 91 So.2d 214, reversed, and cause remanded. chanrobles.com-red

Page 357 U. S. 451