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First Amendment Library:
Telford Taylor


In an effort to curb energy use, New York placed a ban on advertisements by public utility companies that promote the use of electricity. After the restriction was placed in effect, Central Hudson Gas and Electric challenged the regulation in court. The regulation was upheld before it was sent to the Supreme Court.


The question presented in this case is whether a municipal ordinance requiring advance notice to be given to the local police department by "[a]ny person desiring to canvass, solicit or call from house to house . . . for a recognized charitable cause . . . or . . . political campaign or cause . . . in writing, for identification only" violates the guarantees of freedom of speech and due process of law embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment.


Our writ issued in this case (358 U. S. 917) to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals (260 F. 2d 21) affirming petitioner's conviction under the so-called membership clause of the Smith Act. 18 U. S. C. § 2385. The Act, among other things, makes a felony the acquisition or holding of knowing membership in any organization which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.[1] The indictment charged that from January 1946 to the date of its filing (November 18, 1954) the Communist Party of the United States was such an organization, and that petitioner *206 throughout that period was a member thereof, with knowledge of the Party's illegal purpose and a specific intent to accomplish overthrow "as speedily as circumstances would permit."The validity of this conviction is challenged on statutory, constitutional, and evidentiary grounds, and further on the basis of certain alleged trial and procedural errors. We decide the issues raised upon the fullest consideration, the case having had an unusually long history in this Court.[2] For reasons given in this opinion we affirm the Court of Appeals.