Thursday, December 1, 2011
Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving free speech and congressional powe
During its national conference this July in Abbeville, S.C. — the self-proclaimed “birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy” — the LOS continued in the same vein of preparing for the day the federal government collapses and the South rises again. “The mantra [that] violence, or the serious threat thereof, never settles anything is patently false,” Hill said in a prepared speech that was later posted on the group’s website. “History shows that it indeed does settle many things. Please don’t forget this — your enemy hasn’t.”
Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957), was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving free speech and congressional power. It ruled that the First Amendment protected radical and reactionary speech, unless it posed a "clear and present danger."
The Supreme Court of the United States first narrowly construed the Smith Act, stating that the term "organize" meant to form a new organization, not any subsequent organizational acts. Then, the Court drew a distinction between actual advocacy to action and mere belief. The Court ruled that the Smith Act did not prohibit “advocacy of forcible overthrow of the government as an abstract doctrine.” This does not mean that actual advocacy to action is permitted - merely expression of the abstract idea. Tellingly, the Court recognized that actual "advocacy to action" circumstances would be "few and far between." In Justice Black's opinion, he wrote of the original Smith Act trials:
"The testimony of witnesses is comparatively insignificant. Guilt or innocence may turn on what Marx or Engels or someone else wrote or advocated as much as a hundred years or more ago.[...] When the propriety of obnoxious or unfamiliar views about government is in reality made the crucial issue, [...] prejudice makes conviction inevitable except in the rarest circumstances."
The convictions of the indicted members were reversed and the case was remanded to District Court for a retrial.