Adderley v. Florida

385 U.S. 39
Adderley v. Florida
Argued: October 18, 1966
Decided: November 14, 1966


See 385 U.S. 1020, 87 S.Ct. 698.

Richard Yale Feder, Miami, Fla., for petitioners.
William D. Roth, Tallahassee, Fla., for respondent, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.
Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Opinion of the Court

Petitioners, Harriett Louise Adderley and 31 other persons, were convicted by a jury in a joint trial in the County Judge’s Court of Leon County, Florida, on a charge of ‘trespass with a malicious and mischievous intent’ upon the premises of the county jail contrary to § 821.18 of the Florida statutes set out below. [1] Petitioners, apparently all students of the Florida A. & M. University in Tallahassee, had gone from the school to the jail about a mile away, along with many other students, to ‘demonstrate’ at the mail their protests of arrests of other protesting students the day before, and perhaps to protest more generally against state and local policies and practices of racial segregation, including segregation of the jail. The county sheriff, legal custodian of the jail and jail grounds, tried to persuade the students to leave the jail grounds. When this did not work, he notified them that they must leave, that if they did not leave he would arrest them for trespassing, and that if they resisted he would charge them with that as well. Some of the students left but others, including petitioners, remained and they were arrested. On appeal the convictions were affirmed by the Florida Circuit Court and then by the Florida District Court of Appeal, 175 So.2d 249. That being the highest state court to which they could appeal, petitioners applied to us for certiorari contending that, in view of petitioners’ purpose to protest against jail and other segregation policies, their conviction denied them ‘rights of free speech, assembly, petition, due process of law and equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.’ On this ‘Question Presented’ we granted certiorari. 382 U.S. 1023, 86 S.Ct. 643, 15 L.Ed.2d 538. Petitioners present their argument on this question in four separate points, and for convenience we deal with each of their points in the order in which they present them.

Petitioners have insisted from the beginning of this case that it is controlled by and must be reversed because of our prior cases of Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, 83 S.Ct. 680, 9 L.Ed.2d 697, and Cox v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 559, 85 S.Ct. 453, 476, 13 L.Ed.2d 471, 487. We cannot agree.

The Edwards case, like this one, did come up when a number of persons demonstrated on public property against their State’s segregation policies. They also sang hymns and danced, as did the demonstrators in this case. But here the analogies to this case end. In Edwards, the demonstrators went to the South Carolina State Capital grounds to protest. In this case they went to the jail. Traditionally, state capitol grounds are open to the public. Jails, built for security purposes, are not. The demonstrators at the South Carolina Capital went in through a public driveway and as they entered they were told by state officials there that they had a right as citizens to go through the State House grounds as long as they were peaceful. Here the demonstrators entered the jail grounds through a driveway used only for jail purposes and without warning to or permission from the sheriff. More importantly, South Carolina sought to prosecute its State Capital demonstrators by charging them with the common-law crime of breach of the peace. This Court in Edwards took pains to point out at length the indefinite, loose, and broad nature of this charge; indeed, this Court pointed out, 372 U.S. at p. 237, 83 S.Ct. at p. 684, that the South Carolina Supreme Court had itself declared that the ‘breach of the peace’ charge is ‘not susceptible of exact definition.’ South Carolina’s power to prosecute, it was emphasized, 372 U.S. at p. 236, 83 S.Ct. at p. 684 would have been different had the State proceeded under a ‘precise and narrowly drawn regulatory statute evincing a legislative judgment that certain specific conduct be limited or proscribed’ such as, for example, ‘limiting the periods during which the State House grounds were open to the public * * *.’ The South Carolina breach-of-the-peace statute was thus struck down as being so broad and all-embracing as to jeopardize speech, press, assembly and petition, under the constitutional doctrine enunciated in Cantwell v. State of Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 307-308, 60 S.Ct. 900, 904 905, 84 L.Ed. 1213 and followed in many subsequent cases. And it was on this same ground of vagueness that in Cox v. State of Louisiana, supra, 379 U.S. at 551-552, 85 S.Ct. at 462-463, the Louisiana Breach-of-the-peace law used to prosecute Cox was invalidated.

The Florida trespass statute under which these petitioners were charged cannot be challenged on this ground. It is aimed at conduct of one limited kind, that is, for one person or persons to trespass upon the property of another with a malicious and mischievous intent. There is no lack of notice in this law, nothing to entrap or fool the unwary.

Petitioners seem to argue that the Florida trespass law is void for vagueness because it requires a trespass to be ‘with a malicious and mischievous intent * * *.’ But these words do not broaden the scope of trespass so as to make it cover a multitude of types of conduct as does the common-law breach- of- the- peace charge. On the contrary, these words narrow the scope of the offense. The trial court charged the jury as to their meaning and petitioners have not argued that this definition, set out below, [2] is not a reasonable and clear definition of the terms. The use of these terms in the statute, instead of contributing to uncertainty and misunderstanding, actually makes its meaning more understandable and clear.

Petitioners in this Court invoke the doctrine of abatement announced by this Court in Hamm v. City of Rock Hill, 379 U.S. 306, 85 S.Ct. 384, 13 L.Ed.2d 300. But that holding was that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 241, which made it unlawful for places of public accommodation to deny service to any person because of race, effected an abatement of prosecutions of persons for seeking such services that arose prior to the passage of the Act. But this case in no way involves prosecution of petitioners for seeking service in establishments covered by the Act. It involves only an alleged trespass on jail grounds-a trespass which can be prosecuted regardless of the fact that it is the means of protesting segregation of establishments covered by the Act.

Petitioners next argue that ‘petty criminal statutes may not be used to violate minorities’ constitutional rights.’ This of course is true but this abstract proposition gets us nowhere in deciding this case.

Petitioners here contend that ‘Petitioners’ convictions are based on a total lack of relevant evidence.’ If true, this would be a denial of due process under Garner v. Louisiana, 368 U.S. 157, 82 S.Ct. 248, 7 L.Ed.2d 207, and Thompson v. City of Louisville, 362 U.S. 199, 80 S.Ct. 624, 4 L.Ed.2d 654. Both in the petition for certiorari and in the brief on the merits petitioners state that their summary of the evidence ‘does not conflict with the facts contained in the Circuit Court’s opinion’ which was in effect affirmed by the District Court of Appeal. 175 So.2d 249. That statement is correct and petitioners’ summary of facts, as well as that of the Circuit Court, shows an abundance of facts to support the jury’s verdict of guilty in this case.

In summary both these statements show testimony ample to prove this: Disturbed and upset by the arrest of their schoolmates the day before, a large number of Florida A. & M. students assembled on the school grounds and decided to march down to the county jail. Some apparently wanted to be put in jail too, along with the students already there. [3] A group of around 200 marched from the school and arrived at the jail singing and clapping. [4] They went directly to the jail-door entrance where they were met by a deputy sheriff, evidently surprised by their arrival. He asked them to move back, claiming they were blocking the entrance to the jail and fearing that they might attempt to enter the jail. They moved back part of the way, where they stood or sat, singing, clapping and dancing on the jail driveway and on an adjacent grassy area upon the jail premises. This particular jail entrance and driveway were not normally used by the public, but by the sheriff’s department for transporting prisoners to and from the courts several blocks away and by commercial concerns for servicing the jail. Even after their partial retreat, the demonstrators continued to block vehicular passage over this driveway up to the entrance of the jail. [5] Someone called the sheriff who was at the moment apparently conferring with one of the state court judges about incidents connected with prior arrests for demonstrations. When the sheriff returned to the jail, he immediately inquired if all was safe inside the jail and was told it was. He then engaged in a conversation with two of the leaders. He told them that they were trespassing upon jail property and that he would give them 10 minutes to leave or he would arrest them. Neither of the leaders did anything to disperse the crowd, and one of them told the sheriff that they wanted to get arrested. A local minister talked with some of the demonstrators and told them not to enter the jail, because they could not arrest themselves, but just to remain where they were. After about 10 minutes, the sheriff, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all, told the demonstrators that he was the legal custodian of the jail and its premises, that they were trespassing on county property in violation of the law, that they should all leave forthwith or he would arrest them, and that if they attempted to resist arrest, he would charge them with that as a separate offense. Some of the group then left. Others, including all petitioners, did not leave. Some of them sat down. In a few minutes, realizing that the remaining demonstrators had no intention of leaving, the sheriff ordered his deputies to surround those remaining on jail premises and placed them, 107 demonstrators, under arrest. The sheriff unequivocally testified that he did not arrest any persons other than those who were on the jail premises. Of the three petitioners testifying, two insisted that they were arrested before they had a chance to leave, had they wanted to, and one testified that she did not intent to leave. The sheriff again explicitly testified that he did not arrest any person who was attempting to leave.

Under the foregoing testimony the jury was authorized to find that the State had proven every essential element of the crime, as it was defined by the state court. That interpretation is, of course, binding on us, leaving only the question of whether conviction of the state offense, thus defined, unconstitutionally deprives petitioners of their rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly or petition. We hold it does not. The sheriff, as jail custodian, had power, as the state courts have here held, to direct that this large crowd of people get off the grounds. There is not a shred of evidence in this record that this power was exercised, or that its exercise was sanctioned by the lower courts, because the sheriff objected to what was being sung or said by the demonstrators or because he disagreed with the objectives of their protest. The record reveals that he objected only to their presence on that part of the jail grounds reserved for jail uses. There is no evidence at all that on any other occasion had similarly large groups of the public been permitted to gather on this portion of the jail grounds for any purpose. [6] Nothing in the Constitution of the United States prevents Florida from even-handed enforcement of its general trespass statute against those refusing to obey the sheriff’s order to remove themselves from what amounted to the curtilage of the jailhouse. The State, no less than a private owner of property, has power to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated. For this reason there is no merit to the petitioners’ argument that they had a constitutional right to stay on the property, over the jail custodian’s objections, because this ‘area chosen for the peaceful civil rights demonstration was not only ‘reasonable’ but also particularly appropriate * * *.’ Such an argument has as its major unarticulated premise the assumption that people who want to propagandize protests or views have a constitutional right to do so whenever and however and wherever they please. That concept of constitutional law was vigorously and forthrightly rejected in two of the cases petitioners rely on, Cox v. State of Louisiana, supra, at 554-555 and 563-564, 85 S.Ct. at 464 and 480. [7] We reject it again. The United States Constitution does not forbid a State to control the use of its own property for its own lawful nondiscriminatory purpose.

These judgments are affirmed.


Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE, Mr. Justice BRENNAN, and Mr. Justice FORTAS concur, dissenting.


^1  ‘Every trespass upon the property of another, committed with a malicious and mischievous intent, the punishment of which is not specially provided for, shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding three months, or by fine not exceeding one hundred dollars.’ Fla.Stat. § 821.18, F.S.A. (1965).

^2  “Malicious’ means wrongful, you remember back in the original charge, the State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt there was a malicious and mischievous intent. The word ‘malicious’ means that the wrongful act shall be done voluntarily, unlawfully and without excuse or justification. The word ‘malicious’ that is used in these affidavits does not necessarily allege nor require the State to prove that the defendant had actual malice in his mind at the time of the alleged trespass. Another way of stating the definition of ‘malicious’ is by ‘malicious’ is meant the act was done knowingly and willfully and without any legal justification.

“Mischievous,’ which is also required, means that the alleged trespass shall be inclined to cause petty and trivial trouble, annoyance and vexation to others in order for you to find that the alleged trespass was committed with mischievous intent.’ R. 74.

^3  The three petitioners who testified insisted that they had not come to the jail for the purpose of being arrested. But both the sheriff and a deputy testified that they heard several of the demonstrators present at the jail loudly proclaim their desire to be arrested. Indeed, this latter version is borne out by the fact that, though assertedly protesting the prior arrests of their fellow students and the city’s segregation policies, none of the demonstrators carried any signs and upon arriving at the jail, no speeches or other verbal protests were made.

^4  There is no evidence that any attempt was made by law enforcement officers to interfere with this march, or, for that matter, that such officers even knew of the march or its ultimate destination.

^5  Although some of the petitioners testified that they had no intention of interfering with vehicular traffic to and from the jail entrance and that they noticed no vehicle trying to enter or leave the driveway, the deputy sheriff testified that it would have been impossible for automobiles to drive up to the jail entrance and that one serviceman, finished with his business in the jail, waited inside because the demonstrators were sitting around and leaning against his truck parked outside. The sheriff testified that the time the demonstrators were there, between 9:30 and 10 Monday morning, was generally a very busy time for using the jail entrance to transport weekend inmates to the courts and for tradesmen to make service calls at the jail.

^6  In Cox v. State of Louisiana, supra, 379 U.S. at 558, 85 S.Ct. at 466, the Court emphasized: ‘It is, of course, undisputed that appropriate, limited discretion, under properly drawn statutes or ordinances, concerning the time, place, duration, or manner of use of the streets for public assemblies may be vested in administrative officials, provided that such limited discretion is ‘exercised with ‘uniformity of method of treatment upon the facts of each application, free from improper or inappropriate considerations and from unfair discrimination’ * * * (and with) a ‘systematic, consistent and just order of treatment, with reference to the convenience of public use of the highways * * *.'”

^7  ‘The rights of free speech and assembly, while fundamental in our democratic society, still do not mean that everyone with opinions or beliefs to express may address a group at any public place and at any time. The constitutional guarantee of liberty implies the existence of an organized society maintaining public order, without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of anarchy. * * * A group of demonstrators could not insist upon the right to cordon off a street, or entrance to a public or private building, and allow no one to pass who did not agree to listen to their exhortations.’ 379 U.S., at 554-555, 85 S.Ct., at 464.

‘The conduct which is the subject of this statute-picketing and parading-is subject to regulation even though intertwined with expression and association. The examples are many of the application by this Court of the principle that certain forms of conduct mixed with speech may be regulated or prohibited.’ Id., at 563, 85 S.Ct., at 480.

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