Opinions & Commentaries

Overruled

By writ of certiorari in Nos. 280 and 314 and by appeal in No. 966 we have before us the question of the constitutionality *586 of various city ordinances imposing the license taxes upon the sale of printed matter for nonpayment of which the appellant, Jobin, and the petitioners, Jones, Bowden and Sanders, all members of the organization known as Jehovah's Witnesses, were convicted.

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The City of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, has an ordinance, some forty years old, which provides in part:

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Appellant was convicted of violating an ordinance of the town of McCormick, South Carolina which provided: ". . . the following license on business, occupation and professions to be paid by the person or persons carrying on or engaged in such business, occupation or professions within the corporate limits of the Town of McCormick, South Carolina: Agents selling books, per day $1.00, per year $15.00." Appellant is a Jehovah's Witness and has been certified by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society as "an ordained minister of Jehovah God to preach the gospel of God's kingdom under Christ Jesus." He is a resident of McCormick, South Carolina, where he went from house to house distributing certain books. He obtained his living from the money received; he had no other source of income. He claimed that he merely offered the books for a "contribution." But there was evidence that he "offered to and did sell the books." Admittedly he had no license from the town and refused to obtain one. He moved for a directed verdict of not guilty at the close of the evidence, claiming that the ordinance restricted freedom of worship in violation of the First Amendment which the Fourteenth Amendment makes applicable to the States. The motion was overruled and appellant was found guilty by the jury in the Mayor's Court. That judgment was affirmed by the Circuit Court of General Sessions for McCormick County and then by the Supreme Court of South Carolina. The case is here on appeal. Judicial Code, § 237 (a), 28 U.S.C. § 344 (a).

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The appeal is from a decision of the Supreme Court of Texas which denied appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus and remanded him to the custody of appellee, as sheriff of Travis County. 141 Tex. 591, 174 S.W.2d 958. In so deciding the court upheld, as against constitutional and other objections, appellant's commitment for contempt for violating a temporary restraining order issued by the District Court of Travis County. The order was issued ex parte and in terms restrained appellant, while in Texas, from soliciting members for or memberships in specified labor unions and others affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, without first obtaining an organizer's card as required by House Bill No. 100, c. 104, General and Special Laws of Texas, Regular Session, 48th Legislature (1943). After the order was served, appellant addressed a mass meeting of workers and at the end of his speech asked persons present to join a union. For this he was held in contempt, fined and sentenced to a short imprisonment.

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In this case we are asked to decide whether a State, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, can impose criminal punishment on a person who undertakes to distribute religious literature on the premises of a company-owned town contrary to the wishes of the town's management. The town, a suburb of Mobile, Alabama, known as Chickasaw, is owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation. Except for that it has all the characteristics of any other American town. The property consists of residential buildings, streets, a system of sewers, a sewage disposal plant and a "business block" on which business places are situated. A deputy of the Mobile County Sheriff, paid by the company, serves as the town's policeman. Merchants and service establishments have rented the stores and business places on the business block and *503 the United States uses one of the places as a post office from which six carriers deliver mail to the people of Chickasaw and the adjacent area. The town and the surrounding neighborhood, which can not be distinguished from the Gulf property by anyone not familiar with the property lines, are thickly settled, and according to all indications the residents use the business block as their regular shopping center. To do so, they now, as they have for many years, make use of a company-owned paved street and sidewalk located alongside the store fronts in order to enter and leave the stores and the post office. Intersecting company-owned roads at each end of the business block lead into a four-lane public highway which runs parallel to the business block at a distance of thirty feet. There is nothing to stop highway traffic from coming onto the business block and upon arrival a traveler may make free use of the facilities available there. In short the town and its shopping district are accessible to and freely used by the public in general and there is nothing to distinguish them from any other town and shopping center except the fact that the title to the property belongs to a private corporation.

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334 U.S. 558 (1948) SAIA v. NEW YORK. No. 504. Supreme Court of United States. Argued March 30, 1948. Decided June 7, 1948. APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK. Hayden C. Covington argued the cause and filed a brief for appellant. Alan V. Parker submitted on brief for appellee. Opinion of the Court by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, announced by MR. JUSTICE BLACK. This case presents the question of the validity under the Fourteenth Amendment of a penal ordinance of the City of Lockport, New York, which forbids the use of sound amplification devices except with permission of […]

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403 U.S. 713 (1971) NEW YORK TIMES CO. v. UNITED STATES.         No. 1873. Supreme Court of United States.    Argued June 26, 1971 Decided June 30, 1971[*] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.Alexander M. Bickel argued the cause for petitioner in No. 1873. With him on the brief were William E. Hegarty and Lawrence J. McKay.Solicitor General Griswold argued the cause for the United States in both cases. With him on the brief were Assistant Attorney General Mardian and Daniel M. Friedman.William R. Glendon argued the cause for respondents in […]

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We granted certiorari to decide whether petitioner has a First Amendment right of access to the transcript of a preliminary hearing growing out of a criminal prosecution.

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