Dejonge v. Oregon

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299 U.S. 353 (1937), argued 9 Dec. 1936, decided 4 Jan. 1937 by vote of 8 to 0; Hughes for the Court, Stone not participating. The Court overturned the conviction of Dirk DeJonge, who had been prosecuted under Oregon's criminal syndicalism law for helping to conduct a meeting in Portland organized by the Communist party to protest police shootings of striking longshoremen and raids on workers’ homes and halls. Despite the party affiliations of DeJonge and the other organizers, no more than 15 percent of those at the meeting were communists. One lecturer discussed the Young Communist League, and DeJonge tried to sell some party publications, but no one advocated criminal syndicalism or unlawful conduct, and the meeting was completely orderly. The principal evidence against DeJonge was party literature found elsewhere that tended to establish that the Communist party promoted criminal syndicalism. The Oregon Supreme Court held that a person could be convicted under the statute for doing nothing more than participating in a wholly innocent meeting called by the party. In reversing the Oregon court's decision, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes declared, “[P]eaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime” (p. 365). The Oregon criminal syndicalism law had deprived Dejonge of the rights to free speech and peaceable assembly guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Michal R. Belknap

Subjects: Law.

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