Brown v. United States 381 U.S. 437 (1965)

views updated

BROWN v. UNITED STATES 381 U.S. 437 (1965)

This decision revitalized the Constitution's prohibitions on bills of attainder. The taft-hartley act had made it a crime for a member of the Communist party to be a labor union officer. Brown, convicted under this law, argued that it violated the first amendment, the Fifth Amendment's due process clause, and Article I, section 9, which forbids Congress to pass a bill of attainder. A 5–4 Supreme Court agreed with the latter argument. Citing cummings v. missouri (1867), ex parte garland (1867), and united states v. lovett (1946), Chief Justice earl warren said that the law amounted to legislative punishment of a specifically designated group. Congress might weed dangerous persons out of the labor movement, but it must use rules of general applicability, leaving adjudication to other tribunals. (See also irrebuttable presumptions.) Justice byron r. white, for the dissenters, argued that Congress had shown no punitive purpose, but had intended to prevent future political strikes.

Kenneth L. Karst

About this article

Brown v. United States 381 U.S. 437 (1965)

Updated About content Print Article