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HAGUE v. COMMITTEE FOR INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION ET AL.

decided: June 5, 1939.

HAGUE, MAYOR, ET AL
v.
COMMITTEE FOR INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

Hughes, McReynolds, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed; Frankfurter and Douglas took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 307 U.S. Page 500]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered an opinion in which MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurred:

We granted certiorari as the case presents important questions in respect of the asserted privilege and immunity of citizens of the United States to advocate action pursuant to a federal statute, by distribution of printed matter and oral discussion in peaceable assembly; and the jurisdiction of federal courts of suits to restrain the abridgment of such privilege and immunity.

The respondents, individual citizens, unincorporated labor organizations composed of such citizens, and a membership

[ 307 U.S. Page 501]

     corporation, brought suit in the United States District Court against the petitioners, the Mayor, the Director of Public Safety, and the Chief of Police of Jersey City, New Jersey, and the Board of Commissioners, the governing body of the city.

The bill alleges that acting under a city ordinance forbidding the leasing of any hall, without a permit from the Chief of Police, for a public meeting at which a speaker shall advocate obstruction of the Government of the United States or a State, or a change of government by other than lawful means, the petitioners, and their subordinates, have denied respondents the right to hold lawful meetings in Jersey City on the ground that they are Communists or Communist organizations; that pursuant to an unlawful plan, the petitioners have caused the eviction from the municipality of persons they considered undesirable because of their labor organization activities, and have announced that they will continue so to do. It further alleges that acting under an ordinance which forbids any person to "distribute or cause to be distributed or strewn about any street or public place any newspapers, paper, periodical, book, magazine, circular, card or pamphlet," the petitioners have discriminated against the respondents by prohibiting and interfering with distribution of leaflets and pamphlets by the respondents while permitting others to distribute similar printed matter; that pursuant to a plan and conspiracy to deny the respondents their Constitutional rights as citizens of the United States, the petitioners have caused respondents, and those acting with them, to be arrested for distributing printed matter in the streets, and have caused them, and their associates, to be carried beyond the limits of the city or to remote places therein, and have compelled them to board ferry boats destined for New York; have, with violence and force, interfered with the distribution of pamphlets discussing the rights of citizens

[ 307 U.S. Page 502]

     under the National Labor Relations Act; have unlawfully searched persons coming into the city and seized printed matter in their possession; have arrested and prosecuted respondents, and those acting with them, for attempting to distribute such printed matter; and have threatened that if respondents attempt to hold public meetings in the city to discuss rights afforded by the National Labor Relations Act, they would be arrested; and unless restrained, the petitioners will continue in their unlawful conduct. The bill further alleges that respondents have repeatedly applied for permits to hold public meetings in the city for the stated purpose, as required by ordinance,*fn1 although they do not admit the validity of the ordinance; but in execution of a common plan and purpose, the petitioners have consistently refused to issue any permits for meetings to be held by, or sponsored by, respondents, and have thus prevented the

[ 307 U.S. Page 503]

     holding of such meetings; that the respondents did not, and do not, propose to advocate the destruction or overthrow of the Government of the United States, or that of New Jersey, but that their sole purpose is to explain to workingmen the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, the benefits to be derived from it, and the aid which the Committee for Industrial Organization would furnish workingmen to that end; and all the activities in which they seek to engage in Jersey City were, and are, to be performed peacefully, without intimidation, fraud, violence, or other unlawful methods.

The bill charges that the suit is to redress "the deprivation, under color of state law, statute and ordinance, of rights privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States and of rights secured by laws of the United States providing for equal rights of citizens of the United States . . ." It charges that the petitioners' conduct "is in violation of their [respondents] rights and privileges as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States." It alleges that the petitioners' conduct has been "in pursuance of an unlawful conspiracy . . . to injure oppress threaten and intimidate citizens of the United States, including the individual plaintiffs herein, . . . in the free exercise and enjoyment of the rights and privileges secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States. . . ."

The bill charges that the ordinances are unconstitutional and void, or are being enforced against respondents in an unconstitutional and discriminatory way; and that the petitioners, as officials of the city, purporting to act under the ordinances, have deprived respondents of the privileges of free speech and peaceable assembly secured to them, as citizens of the United States, by the Fourteenth Amendment. It prays an injunction against continuance of petitioners' conduct.

[ 307 U.S. Page 504]

     The bill alleges that the cause is of a civil nature, arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States, wherein the amount in controversy exceeds $3,000, exclusive of interest and costs; and is a suit in equity to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, statute and ordinance, of rights, privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States, and of rights secured by the laws of the United States providing for equal rights of citizens of the United States and of all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States.

The answer denies generally, or qualifies, the allegations of the bill but does not deny that the individual respondents are citizens of the United States; denies that the amount in controversy "as to each plaintiff and against each defendant" exceeds $3,000, exclusive of interest and costs; and alleges that the supposed grounds of federal jurisdiction are frivolous, no facts being alleged sufficient to show that any substantial federal question is involved.

After trial upon the merits the District Court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and a decree in favor of respondents.*fn2 In brief, the court found that the purposes of respondents, other than the American Civil Liberties Union, were the organization of unorganized workers into labor unions, causing such unions to exercise the normal and legal functions of labor organizations, such as collective bargaining with respect to the betterment of wages, hours of work and other terms and conditions of employment, and that these purposes were lawful; that the petitioners, acting in their official capacities, have adopted and enforced the deliberate policy of excluding and removing from Jersey City the agents of the respondents; have interfered with their right of passage upon the streets and access to the parks of the city; that these ends have been accomplished by force and violence

[ 307 U.S. Page 505]

     despite the fact that the persons affected were acting in an orderly and peaceful manner; that exclusion, removal personal restraint and interference, by force and violence, are accomplished without authority of law and without promptly bringing the persons taken into custody before a judicial officer for hearing.

The court further found that the petitioners, as officials, acting in reliance on the ordinance dealing with the subject, have adopted and enforced a deliberate policy of preventing the respondents, and their associates, from distributing circulars, leaflets, or handbills in Jersey City; that this has been done by policemen acting forcibly and violently; that the petitioners propose to continue to enforce the policy of such prevention; that the circulars and handbills, distribution of which has been prevented, were not offensive to public morals, and did not advocate unlawful conduct, but were germane to the purposes alleged in the bill, and that their distribution was being carried out in a way consistent with public order and without molestation of individuals or misuse or littering of the streets. Similar findings were made with respect to the prevention of the distribution of placards.

The findings are that the petitioners, as officials, have adopted and enforced a deliberate policy of forbidding the respondents and their associates from communicating their views respecting the National Labor Relations Act to the citizens of Jersey City by holding meetings or assemblies in the open air and at public places; that there is no competent proof that the proposed speakers have ever spoken at an assembly where a breach of the peace occurred or at which any utterances were made which violated the canons of proper discussion or gave occasion for disorder consequent upon what was said; that there is no competent proof that the parks of Jersey City are dedicated to any general purpose other than the recreation of the public and that there is competent proof that the

[ 307 U.S. Page 506]

     municipal authorities have granted permits to various persons other than the respondents to speak at meetings in the streets of the city.

The court found that the rights of the respondents, and each of them, interfered with and frustrated by the petitioners, had a value, as to each respondent, in excess of $3,000, exclusive of interest and costs; that the petitioners' enforcement of their policy against the respondents caused the latter irreparable damage; that the respondents have been threatened with manifold and repeated persecution, and manifold and repeated invasions of their rights; and that they have done nothing to disentitle them to equitable relief.

The court concluded that it had jurisdiction under § 24 (1) (12) and (14) of the Judicial Code;*fn3 that the petitioners' official policy and acts were in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the respondents had established a cause of action under the Constitution of the United States and under R. S. 1979, R. S. 1980, and R. S. 5508, as amended.*fn4

The Circuit Court of Appeals concurred in the findings of fact; held the District Court had jurisdiction under § 24 (1) and (14) of the Judicial Code; modified the decree in respect of one of its provisions, and, as modified, affirmed it.*fn5

By their specifications of error, the petitioners limit the issues in this court to three matters. They contend that the court below erred in holding that the District Court had jurisdiction over all or some of the causes of action stated in the bill. Secondly, they assert that the court erred in holding that the street meeting ordinance is unconstitutional on its face, and that it has been unconstitutionally

[ 307 U.S. Page 507]

     administered. Thirdly, they claim that the decree must be set aside because it exceeds the court's power and is impracticable of enforcement or of compliance.

First. Every question arising under the Constitution may, if properly raised in a state court, come ultimately to this court for decision. Until 1875,*fn6 save for the limited jurisdiction conferred by the Civil Rights Acts, infra, federal courts had no original jurisdiction of actions or suits merely because the matter in controversy arose under the Constitution or laws of the United States; and the jurisdiction then and since conferred upon United States courts has been narrowly limited.

Section 24 of the Judicial Code confers original jurisdiction upon District Courts of the United States. Subsection (1) gives jurisdiction of "suits of a civil nature, at common law or in equity, . . . where the matter in controversy exceeds, exclusive of interest and costs, the sum or value of $3,000" and "arises under the Constitution or laws of the United States."

The wrongs of which respondents complain are tortious invasions of alleged civil rights by persons acting under color of state authority. It is true that if the various plaintiffs had brought actions at law for the redress of such wrongs the amount necessary to jurisdiction under § 24 (1) would have been determined by the sum claimed in good faith.*fn7 But it does not follow that in a suit to restrain threatened invasions of such rights a mere averment of the amount in controversy confers jurisdiction. In suits brought under subsection (1) a traverse of the allegation as to the amount in controversy, or a motion to dismiss based upon the absence of

[ 307 U.S. Page 508]

     such amount, calls for substantial proof on the part of the plaintiff of facts justifying the conclusion that the suit involves the necessary sum.*fn8 The record here is bare of any showing of the value of the asserted rights to the respondents individually and the suggestion that, in total, they have the requisite value is unavailing, since the plaintiffs may not aggregate their interests in order to attain the amount necessary to give jurisdiction.*fn9 We conclude that the District Court lacked jurisdiction under § 24 (1).

Section 24 (14) grants jurisdiction of suits "at law or in equity authorized by law to be brought by any person to redress the deprivation, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State, of any right, privilege, or immunity, secured by the Constitution of the United States, or of any right secured by any law of the United States providing for equal rights of citizens of the United States, or of all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States."*fn10

The petitioners insist that the rights of which the respondents say they have been deprived are not within those described in subsection (14). The courts below have held that citizens of the United States possess such rights by virtue of their citizenship; that the Fourteenth Amendment secures these rights against invasion by a State, and authorizes legislation by Congress to enforce the Amendment.

[ 307 U.S. Page 509]

     Prior to the Civil War there was confusion and debate as to the relation between United States citizenship and state citizenship. Beyond dispute, citizenship of the United States, as such, existed. The Constitution, in various clauses, recognized it*fn11 but nowhere defined it. Many thought state citizenship, and that only, created United States citizenship.*fn12

After the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, a bill, which became the first Civil Rights Act,*fn13 was introduced in the 39th Congress, the major purpose of which was to secure to the recently freed negroes all the civil rights secured to white men. This act declared that all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, were citizens of the United States and should have the same rights in every State to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to enjoy the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property to the same extent as white citizens. None other than citizens of the United States were within the provisions of the Act. It provided that "any person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, shall subject, or cause to be subjected, any ...


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