Elfbrandt v. Russell 384 U.S. 11 (1966)

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ELFBRANDT v. RUSSELL 384 U.S. 11 (1966)

By a 5–4 vote, the warren court struck down a section of Arizona's Communist Control Act of 1961, which subjected state employees to perjury prosecutions if they subscribed to a state loyalty oath while members of the Communist party, later joined the party, or joined "any other organization" having for "one of its purposes" the overthrow of the government. For the majority, Justice william o. douglas argued that even knowing membership in the Communist party could not expose one to criminal punishment without proof of specific intent to further the organization's illegal goals of violent revolution. Such a law "infringes unnecessarily on protected freedoms. It rests on the doctrine of " guilt by association ' which has no place here.…"

The dissenters were led by Justice byron r. white."If a government may remove from office … and … criminally punish … its employees who engage in certain political activities," White wrote, "it is unsound to hold that it may not, on pain of criminal penalties, prevent its employees from affiliating with the Communist Party or other organizations prepared to employ violent means to overthrow constitutional government."

Michael E. Parrish