Uphaus v. Wyman

364 U.S. 388
Uphaus v. Wyman
Decided: November 14, 1960

Louis Lusky, Grenville Clark, Marvin H. Morse, Dudley W. Orr, Royal W. France, Hugh H. Bownes and Leonard B. Boudin, for appellant.

Louis C. Wyman, Atty. Gen. of New Hampshire, appellee pro se.


Dissenting Opinion

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

I concur in the dissent of Mr. Justice DOUGLAS and agree with him that since the New Hampshire law upheld by this Court in Uphaus v. Wyman, 360 U.S. 72, 79 S.Ct. 1040, 3 L.Ed.2d 1090, has now been changed, new federal questions are presented which cannot be dismissed as involving only the correctness of a ruling on local law, and that we consequently should not dismiss this appeal but should note jurisdiction, grant bail and hear arguments. The recent amendment withdrew the power, involved in the previous appeal, which authorized the Attorney General of New Hampshire ‘to determine whether subversive persons * * * are presently located within’ the State, and thus took away the very power under which the Attorney General was acting when he demanded the names of guests at the summer camp in New Hampshire managed by the appellant, Dr. Willard Uphaus. Notwithstanding that fact, the New Hampshire courts have held that the State still has an interest in those names sufficient to justify the continued imprisonment of Dr. Uphaus for his refusal to comply with the demand to produce them. [1] This appeal therefore raises federal questions as to whether this latter holding violates the Federal Constitution. I think that the Court’s action today in treating those federal questions as insubstantial [2] is wrong in at least two different respects.

First, I think this action is inconsistent with the Court’s own test as set forth in its opinion on the prior appeal and there used to square the imprisonment of Dr. Uphaus with the First Amendment. That test was stated in these terms: ‘The interest of the guests at World Fellowship in their associational privacy having been asserted, we have for decision the federal question of whether the public interests overbalance these conflicting private ones.’ [3] This required the Court to weign the interest of those guests against the interest of the State, as broadly expressed by its legislature, in knowing ‘whether subversive persons * * * are presently located within’ the State, a balalcing process [4] which there resulted in the conclusion that the state interest must prevail. Now, however, it is clear that the interest of the State so weighed no longer exists and a new balance must be made if the invasion of ‘associational privacy’ previously sanctioned is to be permitted to continue. But this the Court refuses to do, apparently on the theory that the present appeal is controlled by the previous disposition. It seems to me that ‘balancing’ which refuses to take note of such an important change in the interest of the State is little balancing at all-a mere illusion, in fact.

Secondly, it seems to me that the record as it now stands before this Court requires a reappraisal of the question whether the actions of the State of New Hampshire constitute a bill of attainder in violation of Art. I, § 10, of the Constitution. On the prior appeal, the majority of this Court held that the record as it then stood would not justify such a conclusion. The present record, however, presents new facts relevant to that issue. For here we are confronted with a situation in which the courts of New Hampshire have stated that it was the intention of the legislature of that State to permit the Attorney General to single out Dr. Uphaus and any others (if, indeed, there are any others) against whom investigative proceedings had already been commenced and to pursue those proceedings, not in furtherance of any general aim of the State-that general aim, if it ever existed, has been abandoned by the amendment-but apparently for the sole purpose of setting these people off for special treatment. What this special treatment is to be is clearly shown by the brief filed before this Court in this appeal by the State Attorney General himself, who administers the Act. That brief states unequivocally that ‘(t)hose who voluntarily and knowingly appear with, consult with, confer with, attend functions with and otherwise act in concert with Communists or former Communists in America cannot possibly have any reasonable right of privacy in regard to such activities * * *.’ [5] In the light of all these new facts, the decision upon the former appeal is not and cannot properly be held to be dispositive of the question whether this record shows that New Hampshire is unconstitutionally imposing a bill of attainder upon Dr. Uphaus.

I think the summary dismissal of this appeal without even so much as the benefit of oral argument, when the abridgment of the rights of free speech and assembly is so obvious, is a sad indication of just how far this Court has already departed from the protections of the Bill of Rights and an omen of things yet to come. Such retrogression, of course, follows naturally from the Court’s recent trend toward substituting for the plain language of the commands of the Bill of Rights elastic concepts which permit the Court to uphold direct abridgements of liberty unless the Court views those abridgments as ‘arbitrary,’ ‘unreasonable,’ ‘offensive to decency’ or ‘unjustified on balance,’ [6] for these concepts reduce the absolute commands of the Constitution to mere admonitions. I think it is time for all who cherish the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to look closely at the disastrous consequences upon those liberties which have resulted from the Court’s use of such concepts. The present case graphically illustrates those consequences when it is stripped of the ambiguous legal formulations which have been imposed upon it and considered in the context in which it actually arose-the conduct of Dr. Uphaus as an individual.

He is a citizen of this country by birth. Throughout the nearly seventy years of his life, evidently from early boyhood, he has been a deeply religious person. The record shows his active membership in and official service for various Methodist churches in the communities where he has lived. The value of that membership and those services is attested by affidavits filed by the pastors of those churches. The record further indicates, without dispute, that he is a man whose life has been dedicated to the principles of his religion. He holds a degree as a Doctor of Theology. He taught religious education at Yale University and was associated with the Religion and Labor Foundation for a number of years. Over the years, his religious faith manifested itself in an increasing opposition to war. It was this belief which led him, in 1952, to become the Director of World Fellowship, Inc., a summer camp operated, he says, in the interest of promoting the ideas of pacifism.

Almost immediately upon his arrival at World Fellowship, Dr. Uphaus came under the fire of an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General of New Hampshire, apparently on the theory that World Fellowship was frequented by ‘subversive’ persons. Eventually, as the Director of World Fellowship, he was called before the Attorney General to testify. At the very outset of the hearing before the Attorney General, he expressed a complete willingness to answer any question concerning himself, including any views he might hold or any actions he might have taken with regard to any subject. In addition, he expressed a willingness to give the Attorney General any information which might be wanted in regard to the subject matter of any speeches made at World Fellowship. But he absolutely refused to give the Attorney General: (1) a list of the nonprofessional employees of the camp; (2) a list of all the guests who had stayed at the camp; and (3) his personal correspondence with the speakers who had appeared at the camp. Upon being met with this refusal, the Attorney General sought a court order requiring Dr. Uphaus to produce these items. At the resulting hearing, the court, apparently viewing the request of the Attorney General for the names of the camp’s dishwashers and floor sweepers as totally unreasonable and being uncertain as to the legal amenability to subpoena of the correspondence, ordered Dr. Uphaus to produce only the names of the guests. This, Dr. Uphaus persisted, he could not do, resting his refusal upon the following reasons, to which he has adhered throughout this long ordeal: (1) because ‘by the direct teachings of the Bible * * * it is wrong to bear false witness against my brother; and in as much as I have no reason to believe that any of these persons whose names have been called for have in any sense hurt this state or our country, I have reason to believe that they should not be in the possession of the Attorney General’; (2) because ‘the social teachings of the Methodist Church teach us clearly and specifically that we in the United States should stand up and uphold civil and religious rights; and in particular, it condemns guilt by association’; [7] and (3) because ‘I love this document (the Bill of Rights) and I propose to uphold it with the full strength and power of my spirit and intelligence.’

Nonetheless, the order to produce was upheld and Dr. Uphaus was imprisoned for his failure to comply with it. As a result, he has been in jail since last December 14 under a judgment which sentenced him to imprisonment for one year or until such time as he would comply with the order to produce. His plight, however, is even worse than would normally be indicated by that sentence in that there can be no assurance at all that he will be released at the end of the year specified. The Attorney General of New Hampshire insists, notwithstanding the recent legislation reducing his powers, that he has a right to continue all investigations presently pending, and the Supreme Court of New Hampshire apparently agrees with him. This Court, by its action today, necessarily takes the position that this serious abridgment of the rights of free speech and peaceable assembly does not even raise a substantial federal question. As a result, it is entirely possible that Dr. Uphaus will be subjected to new questioning and forced into a new ‘contempt’ as soon as he serves out this year’s imprisonment. The brief filed by the Attorney General of New Hampshire makes it appear that he has every intention of doing just that. Thus, a distinct possibility exists that this man who, at least so far as these records show, has never committed a single crime, nor even so much as an immoral act, faces imprisonment for the rest of his life. This simply because he has refused to violate his religious principles and sacrifice his constitutional rights by disclosing the names of those with whom he has peaceably assembled to discuss public affairs in this country.

In this respect, the predicament of Dr. Uphaus may be likened to that of the defendant in the famous Sheriff’s Case before the House of Lords in 1767. [8] There the City of London sought to prosecute a religious dissenter for refusing to serve in the office of sheriff as required by its by-laws. The defense was that the Corporation Act [9] would have made it a crime for a dissenter to serve in that office for it required an oath from all office holders that they had taken the sacraments of the Church of England within the year. The dilemma of the dissenter was vividly described by Lord Mansfield in stating his views on the case:

‘Make a law to render them incapable of office; make another, to punish them for not serving. * * * If they accept, punish them; if they refuse, punish them; if they say, yes, punish them; if they say, no, punish them. My Lords, this is a most exquisite dilemma, from which there is no escaping; it is a trap a man cannot get out of; it is as bad persecution as the bed of Procrustes: If they are too short, stretch them; if they are too long, lop them.’ [10]

This technique of putting unorthodox groups into a position where their only real choice is between various alternative punishments (a technique the prevalence of which today extends far beyond the borders of New Hampshire) is strikingly similar to that being utilized here against Dr. Uphaus. If he testifies, his friends will suffer; if he refuses to testify, he goes to jail. The dilemma is truly one ‘from which there is no escaping’ for a man who, like Dr. Uphaus or like the religious dissenter in the Sheriff’s Case, cannot bring himself to sacrifice either his religious principles or his legal rights.

That case also serves to highlight a most unfortunate aspect of the decision in this case. For there, nearly two hundred years ago and in England where there was no Bill of Rights, the House of Lords refused to countenance the use of that technique. They held it to be inconsistent with the Toleration Act [11] by which Parliament had guaranteed religious freedom even though the terms of that guarantee were far less sweeping and more limited in application than the absolute commands of our First Amendment. In my view, the majority’s disposition of this case, reducing as it does those absolute commands to mere admonitions, means that our First Amendment amounts to something less as a charter of freedom than England’s Toleration Act was held to be. This in the very face of the indisputable historical fact that one of the primary reasons for the establishment of this country was the desire of early settlers to escape religious persecution.

I do not suggest, of course, that this imprisonment of Dr. Uphaus is without precedent in history. Indeed, I am painfully aware that there are a multitude of such precedents extending from many centuries back in the past and continuing forward in an almost unbroken line to the present day. There is, for example, the case of the Puritan minister John Udall in 1590, a case which bears a strong similarity to that of Dr. Uphaus. Udall was called before a court in connection with the investigation of the authorship of certain religious tracts which, in the words of one of the judges, ‘tend(ed) to the overthrowing of the State, and the moving of Rebellion.’ [12] That court sought to force Udall to disclose the identity of other Puritans so that it might question them as to the authorship of the tracts. In refusing to divulge the demanded names, Udall gave his reasons in a statement not unlike that of Dr. Uphaus before the New Hampshire court. ‘I will take an oath of allegiance to her majesty, wherein I will acknowledge her supremacy according to statute, and promise my obedience as becometh a subject; but to swear to accuse myself or others, I think you have no law for it.’ [13] Udall, like Dr. Uphaus, was sentenced to jail for civil contempt under a judgment which ordered his imprisonment until such time as he would consent to testify. [14] But such coercion was as ineffective in that case as it has been to date in this. Udall’s dauntless spirit was never broken even though his body was. He died in prison within a few years.

It would not be difficult to point out many other cases such as that of Udall, but I will content myself with one other. Some seventy years after John Udall’s experiences, there was a dissenting preacher in England named John Bunyan. He was arrested for preaching and efforts were made to get him to agree not to preach any more. He refused to be coerced into silence. The result was that he was put through a kind of trial [15] and sentenced to prison for holding ‘several unlawful (religious) meetings * * * to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom * * *.’ [16] In Bunyan’s case the imprisonment lasted 12 years, and it was during those 12 years that he gave to the world The Pilgrim’s Progress. [17] One of the judges who acquiesced [18] in the imprisonment of Bunyan was Sir Matthew Hale, later Lord Chief Justice Hale, a man described by Lord Campbell as ‘one of the most pure, the most pious, the most independent, and the most learned’ Chief Justices England ever had. [19] That this description is not entirely unjustified, despite the fact that his record was also marred by the part he took in the conviction and sentencing to death of two unfortunate women as witches, [20] is, I think, a tragic commentary upon the record of the judiciary, during that period, in discharging its duty to protect civil liberties. It is perhaps one of the ironies of history that the name of John Bunyan, a poor tinker and preacher, is at least as well known and respected today as that of the great Chief Justice of England who permitted him to languish in jail.

My guess is that history will look with no more favor upon the imprisonment of Willard Uphaus than it has upon that of Udall, Bunyan or the many others like them. For this is another of that everlengthening line of cases where people have been sent to prison and kept there for long periods of their lives because their beliefs were inconsistent with the prevailing views of the moment. I believe the First and Fourteenth Amendments were intended to prevent any such imprisonments in this country. The grounds urged by the Attorney General of New Hampshire here are, as shown by the cases of Udall and Bunyan, precisely those that have always been urged for throwing dissenters in jail, namely, that they are a menace to the community and it is dangerous to leave them free. It may be true, as the Attorney General of New Hampshire suspects, that Dr. Uphaus has at some time been in the company of Communists, or that the people who have been in his camp have been in the company of Communists. But even if it is true and those associates are as bad as they are suspected to be, it is my belief that our Constitution with its Bill of Rights absolutely forbids the imposition of pains and penalties upon him for peaceably assembling with them. That great charter was drafted by men who were well aware of the constant danger to individual liberty in a country where public officials are permitted to harass and punish people on nothing more than charges that they associate with others labeled by the Government as publicans and sinners.


^1  As indicated by my concurrence in the opinion of Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, I think the better interpretation of that holding is that it rests upon the theory that the imprisonment is for criminal contempt, and I think that Mr. Justice DOUGLAS conclusively demonstrates that if that is so, this Court cannot properly refuse review of that imprisonment. But the Court’s dismissal of the appeal is an implicit holding that the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s action rests upon the civil contempt theory. Even upon that view, however, I think the present appeal raises federal questions both new and substantial.

^2  Implicit, of course, in the Court’s order dismissing this appeal because the judgment is based on a nonfederal ground is the holding that the federal questions actually presented are insubstantial.

^3  360 U.S. at page 78, 79 S.Ct. at page 1045.

^4  My opinion of this balancing process, when applied as here to justify direct abridgments of First Amendment freedoms, has been fully expressed in previous cases. See, e.g., Barenblatt v. United States, 360 U.S. 109, 141-146, 79 S.Ct. 1081, 1100-1103, 3 L.Ed.2d 1115 (dissenting opinion), Beauharnais v. People of State of Illinois, 343 U.S. 250, 268-270, 274-275, 72 S.Ct. 725, 736 737, 739-740, 96 L.Ed. 919 (dissenting opinion).

^5  Thus, the case falls squarely within the holding of this Court in United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303, 315-316, 66 S.Ct. 1073, 1078-1079, 90 L.Ed. 1252, in that it imposes special pains and penalties upon an easily ascertainable group.

^6  See, e.g., Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250, 72 S.Ct. 725; Rochin v. People of State of California, 342 U.S. 165, 72 S.Ct. 205, 96 L.Ed. 183; American Communications Ass’n v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 70 S.Ct. 674, 94 L.Ed. 925.

^7  At the hearing upon remand of these proceedings to the New Hampshire courts following this Court’s affirmance of the first contempt order, Dr. Uphaus expanded this second reason to encompass the teachings of all religions. Relying upon a recent article by a Professor of Church History at Harvard University, Williams, Reluctance To Inform, 14 Theology Today 229, Dr. Uphaus argued that his position with respect to informing against his friends is required by the historic traditions of all religions. That article pointed to the indisputable truth that religious groups have time and again resorted to a refusal to inform as a shield against persecution.

^8  Harrison v. Evans, 1 Eng.Rep. 1437.

^9  13 Charles II, c. I.

^10  Lord Mansfield’s statement does not appear in the report of the case cited above. It is, however, fully reproduced in The Palladium of Conscience, a collection of writings on religious liberty, at 142, 153.

^11  1 William & Mary, c. XVIII.

^12  1 Howell’s State Trials 1271, 1294.

^13  Id., at 1275.

^14  Id., at 1276. Although the term ‘civil contempt’ was not used, the following colloquy reported between Udall and the Bishop of Rochester, one of the judges at his trial, makes it clear that such was the nature of his sentence:

‘Roch. The day is past, and we must make an end: will you take the oath?

‘U. I dare not take it.

‘Roch. Then you must go to prison, and it will go hard with you, for you must remain there until you be glad to take it.’

^15  See Bunyan’s own report of the events surrounding his imprisonment, A Relation of the Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan, in Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim’s Progress, at 103-132 (Brown ed., 1907).

^16  Id., at 114.

^17  Brown, John Bunyan, at 253-262, casts some doubt upon this traditional version of the genesis of The Pilgrim’s Progress by suggesting that it was written, not during this 12 years’ imprisonment, but a few years later during another shorter incarceration. See, also, Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. IV, at 392 (1957 ed.); Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. III, at 280.

^18  It is difficult to ascertain with precision the extent of Hale’s part in this matter. He was not one of the judges who conducted such trial as Bunyan was accorded, which resulted in his prison sentence. But, several months later, he, with Justice Twisden, was presented with a petition challenging the legality of Bunyan’s conviction and seeking his release. The colloquy between Mrs. Bunyan, who presented that petition, and the two judges is reported in Bunyan, A Relation of the Imprisonment, supra, from which it appears that Hale was quite sympathetic to Bunyan’s plight. Nonetheless, he refused to order his release, apparently on the belief that he was powerless to do so. Thus he is quoted as having said: ‘I am sorry, woman, that I can do thee no good; thou must do one of those three things aforesaid, namely; either to apply thyself to the King, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error * * *.’ Id., at 130. An accurate evaluation of the legal correctness of Hale’s position is difficult but it may be pointed out that it is inconsistent with the claim made in Bunyan’s report that his wife had previously petitioned the House of Lords and had been told that the question of her husband’s release had been placed in the hands of the judges at the next assize (the assize at which Hale and Twisden were sitting), and also with a statement attributed to Justice Twisden by that report: ‘What, will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him.’ Id., at 128. On the other hand, Judge Hale’s refusal to act without a ‘writ of error’ was consistent with the general judicial attitude of caution attributed to him in 3 Hallam, The Constitutional History of England, at 214 (2d ed., 1829). Hallam there criticized English lawyers for ‘dwell(ing) on the authorities of sir Edward Coke and sir Matthew Hale’ in treason cases because ‘these eminent men, and especially the latter, aware that our law is mainly built on adjudged precedent, and not daring to reject that which they would not have themselves asserted, will be found to have rather timidly exercised their judgment in the construction of this statute, yielding a deference to former authority which we have transferred to their own.’ For a sympathetic treatment of Hale’s part in the Bunyan case, see 2 Campbell, Lives of the Chief Justices of England, 219-222.

^19  2 Campbell, Lives of the Chief Justices of England, at 171. See also Burnett, The Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale; Foss, The Judges of England, at 105-116; Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. VIII, at 902-908.

^20  See 6 Howell’s State Trials 687.

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