Joint Anti-fascist Refugee Committee v. Mcgrath

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341 U.S. 123 (1951), argued 11 Oct. 1950, decided 30 Apr. 1951 by vote of 5 to 3; Burton for the Court; Vinson, Reed, and Minton in dissent; Clark not participating. The Court handed down this surprising ruling at the height of cold war hysteria over domestic communism. It ruled on common law and constitutional grounds against the manner in which groups had been placed on the attorney general's list of subversive organizations. That list, created by President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order no. 9835 of 20 March 1948, included seventy-eight allegedly subversive organizations, falling into six categories. There was no requirement that the attorney general hold hearings before listing a group nor any provision for appeal from, or judicial review of, his decisions. Public officials and private citizens used the list extensively to pillory, intimidate, and ostracize radicals and other dissidents. Three of the groups included on the list, the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, and the International Workers Order, objected to being characterized as disloyal and filed suit seeking to have their names removed from the list. A federal district court dismissed their complaint; a divided court of appeals affirmed its ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, taking the position that listing the three organizations without affording them a hearing violated their constitutional rights. Because each member of the five-justice majority wrote this own opinion, the Court's decision lacked a coherent rationale.

Michal R. Belknap

Subjects: Law.

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