United States v. Petrillo
332 U.S. 1 (1947)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1 (1947)

United States v. Petrillo

No. 954

Argued May 5-6, 1947

Decided June 23, 1947

332 U.S. 1

Syllabus

1. Section 506(a)(1) of the Communications Act, making it a crime, by the use or threat of use of force, violence, intimidation, or duress, to coerce, compel or constrain or attempt to coerce, compel or constrain a radio broadcasting licensee to employ or agree to employ, in connection with the conduct of the licensee's broadcasting business, any person or persons "in excess of the number of employees needed by such licensee to perform actual services," is not so vague, indefinite or uncertain as to violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 332 U. S. 5-8.

(a) This question was properly presented to this Court for a decision on an appeal by the Government under the Criminal Appeals Act from a decision of a District Court dismissing, on the sole ground that the section was unconstitutional, an information charging a violation in substantially the statutory language. Pp. 332 U. S. 5-6.

(b) The contention that persons of ordinary intelligence would be unable to know when their compulsive actions would force a person against his will to hire employees he did not need cannot be sustained. Pp. 332 U. S. 6-7.

(c) When measured by common understanding and practices, the language of the statute provides an adequate warning as to what conduct falls under its ban, and marks boundaries sufficiently distinct for judges and juries fairly to administer the law in accordance with the will of Congress, and the Constitution requires no more. Pp. 332 U. S. 7-8.

Page 332 U. S. 2

2. It does not contravene the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by denying equal protection of the laws to radio broadcasting employees as a class -- even though it provides no punishment for employers for violating the policy and leaves other classes of employees free to engage in the practices forbidden to radio workers. Pp. 332 U. S. 8-9.

(a) This question was properly presented to this Court for a decision on an appeal by the Government under the Criminal Appeals Act from a decision of the District Court dismissing an information on the sole ground that the statute is unconstitutional as written. P. 332 U. S. 8.

(b) It is not within the province of this Court to say that, because Congress has prohibited some practices within its power to prohibit, it must prohibit all within its power. Pp. 332 U. S. 8-9.

3. On its face, the statute does not contravene the First Amendment by abridging freedom of speech; but, since the statute does not mention picketing, and it is uncertain on the record in this case whether it would have been applied so as to prohibit peaceful picketing, the question whether such an application would violate the First Amendment is not before this Court in a form appropriate for decision. Pp. 332 U. S. 9-12.

4. On its face, the statute does not violate the provisions of the Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude; but no decision is made on the question whether some possible application of it to particular persons in particular sets of circumstances would violate the Thirteenth Amendment, since questions of that kind are not presented by the record in this case in a form appropriate for decision by this Court. Pp. 332 U. S. 12-13.

5. The Criminal Appeals Act does not require this Court to pass on constitutional questions prematurely decided by a district court's dismissal of an information which had not been tested by a motion to strike or for a bill of particulars. P. 332 U. S. 10.

68 F.Supp. 845, reversed and remanded.

The District Court dismissed a criminal information charging respondent with violation of § 506(a)(1) of the Communications Act on the ground that the section was unconstitutional. 68 F.Supp. 845. On direct appeal by the Government under the Criminal Appeals Act, 18 U.S.C. (Supp. V, 1946) § 682, reversed and remanded, p. 332 U. S. 13.

Page 332 U. S. 3

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