Thomas v. Collins
323 U.S. 516 (1945)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516 (1945)

Thomas v. Collins

No. 14

Argued May 1, 1944

Reargued October 11, 1944

Decided January 8, 1945

323 U.S. 516

Syllabus

1. A statute of Texas requires labor organizers to register with and procure an organizer's card from a designated state official before soliciting memberships in labor unions. While a state court order restraining the appellant from violating the statute was in effect, he made a speech before an assemblage of workers. At the end of his speech, he urged his hearers generally to join a union, and also asked an individual by name to become a member. Appellant was sentenced to a fine and imprisonment for contempt.

Held:

(a) Upon the record, the penalty for contempt must be treated as having been imposed in respect of both the general and the specific invitations, and the judgment of contempt must be affirmed as to both or neither. P. 323 U. S. 528.

On the question whether a restriction could be sustained in respect of the appellant's solicitation of the individual, if considered separately, the Court expresses no opinion.

(b) As applied in this case, the statute imposed a previous restraint upon appellant's rights of free speech and free assembly, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Federal Constitution. P. 323 U. S. 532.

(c) A requirement that one register before making a public speech to enlist support for a lawful movement is incompatible with the guaranties of the First Amendment. P. 323 U. S. 540.

2. The task of drawing the line between the freedom of the individual and the power of the State is more delicate than usual where the presumption supporting legislation is balanced by the preferred position of the freedoms secured by the First Amendment. P. 323 U. S. 529.

3. Restriction of the liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment can be justified only by clear and present danger to the public welfare. P. 323 U. S. 530.

4. The rational connection between the remedy provided and the evil to be curbed, which in other contexts might support legislation against attack on due process grounds, will not, in itself, suffice

Page 323 U. S. 517

to sustain a restriction of the liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment. P. 323 U. S. 530.

5. Freedom of speech and of the press, and the rights a the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for redress of grievances, are cognate rights. P. 323 U. S. 530.

6. The First Amendment's safeguards are not inapplicable to business or economic activity. P. 323 U. S. 531.

7. State regulation of labor unions, whether aimed at fraud or other abuses, must not infringe constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly. P. 323 U. S. 532.

141 Tex. 591, 174 S.W.2d 958, reversed.

APPEAL from a judgment in a habeas corpus proceeding which sustained the commitment of the appellant for contempt.

Page 323 U. S. 518

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