Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath

341 U.S. 123
Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath
Argued: October 11, 1950
Decided: April 30, 1951


Mr. Benedict Wolf, New York City, and O. John Rogge, Washington, D.C., for petitioner Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee.
Mr. David Rein, Washington, D.C., for petitioners National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, Inc., and others.
Mr. Allen R. Rosenberg, Washington, D.C., for petitioners International Workers Order, Inc., and another.
Mr. Philip B. Perlman, Sol. Gen., Washington, D.C., for respondents.
Mr. Justice BURTON announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the following opinion, in which Mr. Justice DOUGLAS joins:

Concurring Opinion

Mr. Justice BLACK, concurring.

Without notice or hearing and under color of the President’s Executive Order No. 9835, the Attorney General found petitioners guilty of harboring treasonable opinions and designs, officially branded them as Communists, and promulgated his findings and conclusions for particular use as evidence against government employees suspected of disloyalty. In the present climate of public opinion it appears certain that the Attorney General’s much publicized findings, regardless of their truth or falsity, are the practical equivalents of confiscation and death sentences for any blacklisted organization not possessing extraordinary financial, political or religious prestige and influence. The Government not only defends the power of the Attorney General to pronounce such deadly edicts but also argues that individuals or groups so condemned have no standing to seek redress in the courts, even though a fair judicial hearing might conclusively demonstrate their loyalty. My basic reasons for rejecting these and other contentions of the Government are in summary the following: (1) I agree with Mr. Justice BURTON that petitioners have standing to sue for the reason among others that they have a right to conduct their admittedly legitimate political, charitable and business operations free from unjustified governmental defamation. Otherwise, executive officers could act lawlessly with impunity. And, assuming that the President may constitutionally authorize the promulgation of the Attorney General’s list, I further agree with Mr. Justice BURTON that this Court should not attribute to the President a purpose to vest in a cabinet officer the power to destroy political, social, religious or business organizations by ‘arbitrary fiat,’ and thus the methods employed by the Attorney General exceed his authority under Executive Order No. 9835.

(2) Assuming, though I deny, that the Constitution permits the executive officially to determine, list and publicize individuals and groups as traitors and public enemies, I agree with Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment would bar such condemnation without notice and a fair hearing. My views previously expressed under similar circumstances are relevant here. E.g., dissenting opinion in Ludecke v. Watkins, 335 U.S. 160, 173, 68 S.Ct. 1429, 1435, 92 L.Ed. 881; and see In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 68 S.Ct. 499, 92 L.Ed. 682.

(3) More fundamentally, however, in my judgment the executive has no constitutional authority, with or without a hearing, officially to prepare and publish the lists challenged by petitioners. In the first place, the system adopted effectively punishes many organizations and their members merely because of their political beliefs and utterances, and to this extent smacks of a most evil type of censorship. This cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment as I interpret it. See my dissent in American Communications Ass’n, C.I.O. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 445, 70 S.Ct. 674, 707, 94 L.Ed. 925. Moreover, officially prepared and proclaimed governmental blacklists possess almost every quality of bills of attainder, the use of which was from the beginning forbidden to both national and state governments. U.S.Const. Art. I, §§ 9, 10. It is true that the classic bill of attainder was a condemnation by the legislature following investigation by that body, see United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303, 66 S.Ct. 1073, 90 L.Ed. 1252, while in the present case the Attorney General performed the official tasks. But I cannot believe that the authors of the Constitution, who outlawed the bill of attainder, inadvertently endowed the executive with power to engage in the same tyrannical practices that had made the bill such an odious institution. [1]

There is argument that executive power to issue these pseudo-bills of attainder can be implied from the undoubted power of the Government to hire and discharge employees and to protect itself against treasonable individuals or organizations. [2] Our basic law, however, wisely withheld authority for resort to executive investigations, condemnations and blacklists as a substitute for imposition of legal types of penalties by courts following trial and conviction in accordance with procedural safeguards of the Bill of Rights. [3]

In this day when prejudice, hate and fear are constantly invoked to justify irresponsible smears and persecution of persons even faintly suspected of entertaining unpopular views, it may be futile to suggest that the cause of internal security would be fostered, not hurt, by faithful adherence to our constitutional guarantees of individual liberty. Nevertheless, since prejudice manifests itself in much the same way in every age and country and since what has happened before can happen again, it surely should not be amiss to call attention to what has occurred when dominant governmental groups have been left free to give uncontrolled rein to their prejudices against unorthodox minorities. As specific illustration, I am adding as an appendix Macaulay’s account of a parliamentary proscription which took place when popular prejudice was high; this is only one out of many similar instances that readily can be found. [4] Memories of such events were fresh in the minds of the founders when they forbade the use of the bill of attainder.

Appendix to Opinion of Mr. Justice BLACK.

James II, the last Stuart king of England, was driven from his throne in 1688 by William of Orange. After a brief sojourn at Saint Germains in France, James landed in Ireland where he was supported by those Irish Catholics who had suffered greatly at the hands of the English Protestant colonists. One of his first official acts was to call an Irish Parliament which enacted the bill of attainder described by the historian Macaulay as follows:

‘* * * (the Commons) respected no prerogative, however ancient, however legitimate, however salutary, if they apprehended that (James II) might use it to protect the race which they abhorred. They were not satisfied till they had extorted his reluctant consent to a portentous law, a law without a parallel in the history of civilised countries, the great Act of Attainder.

‘A list was framed containing between two and three thousand names. At the top was half the peerage of Ireland. Then came baronets, knights, clergymen, squires, merchants, yeomen, artisans, women, children. No investigation was made. Any member who wished to rid himself of a creditor, a rival, a private enemy, gave in the name to the clerk at the table, and it was generally inserted without discussion. The only debate of which any account has come down to us related to the Earl of Strafford. He had friends in the House who ventured to offer something in his favour. But a few words from Simon Luttrell settled the question. ‘I have,’ he said, ‘heard the King say some hard things of that lord.’ This was thought sufficient, and the name of Strafford stands fifth in the long table of the proscribed.

‘Days were fixed before which those whose names were on the list were required to surrender themselves to such justice as was then administered to English Protestants in Dublin. If a proscribed person was in Ireland, he must surrender himself by the tenth of August. If he had left Ireland since the fifth of November 1688, he must surrender himself by the first of September. If he had left Ireland before the fifth of November 1688, he must surrender himself by the first of October. If he failed to appear by the appointed day, he was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered without a trial, and his property was to the confiscated. It might be physically impossible for him to deliver himself up within the time fixed by the Act. He might be bedridden. He might be in the West Indies. He might be in prison. Indeed there notoriously were such cases. Among the attainted Lords was Mountjoy. He had been induced by the villany of Tyrconnel to trust himself at Saint Germains: he had been thrown into the Bastile: he was still lying there; and the Irish parliament was not ashamed to enact that, unless he could, within a few weeks, make his escape from his cell, and present himself at Dublin, he should be put to death.

‘As it was not even pretended that there had been any inquiry into the guilt of those who were thus proscribed, as not a single one among them had been heard in his own defence, and as it was certain that it would be physically impossible for many of them to surrender themselves in time, it was clear that nothing but a large exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy could prevent the perpetration of iniquities so horrible that no precedent could be found for them even in the lamentable history of the troubles of Ireland. The Commons therefore determined that the royal prerogative of mercy should be limited. Several regulations were devised for the purpose of making the passing of pardons difficult and costly: and finally it was enacted that every pardon granted by his Majesty, after the end of November 1689, to any of the many hundreds of persons who had been sentenced to death without a trial, should be absolutely void and of none effect. Sir Richard Nagle came in state to the bar of the Lords and presented the bill with a speech worthy of the occasion. ‘Many of the persons here attainted,’ said he, ‘have been proved traitors by such evidence as satisfies us. As to the rest we have followed common fame.’

‘With such reckless barbarity was the list framed that fanatical royalists, who were, at that very time, hazarding their property, their liberty, their lives, in the cause of James, were not secure from proscription. The most learned man of whom the Jacobite party could boast was Henry Dodwell, Camdenian Professor in the University of Oxford. In the cause of hereditary monarchy he shrank from no sacrifice and from no danger. It was about him that William (of Orange) uttered those memorable words: ‘He has set his heart on being a martyr; and I have set mine on disappointing him.’ But James was more cruel to friends than William to foes. Dodwell was a Protestant: he had some property in Connaught: these crimes were sufficient; and he was set down in the long roll of those who were doomed to the gallows and the quartering block.

‘That James would give his assent to a bill which took from him the power of pardoning, seemed to many persons impossible. * * * He might also have seen that the right course was the wise course. Had he, on this great occasion, had the spirit to declare that he would not shed the blood of the innocent, and that, even as respected the guilty, he would not divest himself of the power of tempering judgment with mercy, he would have regained more hearts in England than he would have lost in Ireland. But it was ever his fate to resist where he should have yielded, and to yield where he should have resisted. The most wicked of all laws received his sanction; and it is but a very small extenuation of his guilt that his sanction was somewhat reluctantly given.

‘That nothing might be wanting to the completeness of this great crime, extreme care was taken to prevent the persons who were attainted from knowing that they were attainted, till the day of grace fixed in the Act was passed. The roll of names was not published, but kept carefully locked up in Fitton’s closet. Some Protestants, who still adhered to the cause of James, but who were anxious to know whether any of their friends or relations had been proscribed, tried hard to obtain a sight of the list; but solicitation, remonstrance, even bribery, proved vain. Not a single copy got abroad till it was too late for any of the thousands who had been condemned without a trial to obtain a pardon.

‘* * * That the colonists, when they had won the victory, grossly abused it, that their legislation was, during many years, unjust and tyrannical, is most true. But it is not less true that they never quite came up to the atrocious example set by their vanquished enemy during his short tenure of power.’

3 Macaulay, History of England from the Accession of James the Second (London, 1855) 216-220. (Footnotes appearing in the original have been omitted.)


^1  In November 1794, there was introduced in Congress a resolution of public disapprovable of certain ‘self-created Democratic societies’ thought to be responsible for stirring up the people to insurrection. Madison opposed the resolution, apparently believing that if it were enacted it would be a bill of attainder. His views in this regard are reported as follows: ‘It is in vain to say that this indiscriminate censure is no punishment. If it falls on classes, or individuals, it will be a severe punishment. * * * Is not this proposition, if voted, a vote of attainder?’ 4 Annals of Cong. 934 (1794).

^2  But compare Madison in Federalist Paper No. 42: ‘As treason may be committed against the United States, the authority of the United States ought to be enabled to punish it. But as new-fangled and artificial treasons have been the great engines by which violent factions, the natural offspring of free governments, have usually wreaked their alternate malignity on each other, the Convention have, with great judgment, opposed a barrier to this peculiar danger, by inserting a Constitutional definition of the crime, fixing the proof necessary for conviction of it, and restraining the Congress, even in punishing it, from extending the consequences of guilt beyond the person of its author.’

^3  One purpose of the Attorney General’s blacklist under Executive Order 9835 is for use as evidence against government employees tried for disloyalty before loyalty boards acting under the same Executive Order. Proof of membership in a blacklisted organization, or of association with its members, can weigh heavily against a government employee’s loyalty. Thus an employee may lose his job because of the Attorney General’s secret and ex parte action. This is well illustrated in the case of Bailey v. Richardson, 341 U.S. 918, 71 S.Ct. 669, decided today by an equally divided Court. The Loyalty Board’s finding against Miss Bailey appears to have rested in part on her supposed association with such organizations and in part on secret unsworn hearsay statements communicated to the Board by anonymous informers. Judge Edgerton’s dissenting opinion demonstrates how the entire loyalty program grossly deprives government employees of the benefits of constitutional safeguards. Bailey v. Richardson, 86 U.S.App.D.C. 248, 182 F.2d 46, 66.

^4  The Appendix is an illustration of persecution of Protestants by Catholics. For instances of persecution of Catholics by Protestants, see my dissenting opinion in American Communications Ass’n, C.I.O., v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 445, 70 S.Ct. 674, 707, 94 L.Ed. 925, particularly notes 3, 4 and 7.

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