Staub v. City of Baxley
355 U.S. 313 (1958)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Staub v. City of Baxley, 355 U.S. 313 (1958)

Staub v. City of Baxley

No. 48

Argued November 18-19, 1957

Decided January 13, 1958

355 U.S. 313

Syllabus

A city ordinance made it an offense to "solicit" citizens of the City to become members of any "organization, union or society" which requires fees or dues from its members without first applying for and receiving from the Mayor and Council a "permit," which they might grant or refuse after considering the character of the applicant, the nature of the organization and its effects upon the general welfare of the citizens. For soliciting applications for membership in a labor union in the private homes of employees without applying for or obtaining such a permit, appellant was convicted of a violation of this ordinance and sentenced to fine or imprisonment, notwithstanding her claim that the ordinance violated her rights under the Federal Constitution. The State Court of Appeals affirmed. It declined to pass on appellant's contention, on the grounds that (1) appellant lacked standing to attack the constitutionality of the ordinance because she had made no attempt to obtain a permit under it, and (2) under state procedure, her attack should have been made against specific sections of the ordinance, and not against the ordinance as a whole.

Held:

1. The decision of the State Court of Appeals does not rest on an adequate nonfederal ground, and this Court has jurisdiction of this appeal. Pp. 355 U. S. 318-320.

(a) Failure to apply for a license under an ordinance which on its face violates the Constitution does not preclude review in this Court of a judgment of conviction under such an ordinance. P. 355 U. S. 319.

(b) In the circumstances of this case, appellant's failure to attack specific sections of the ordinance, in accordance with state procedure, is not an adequate nonfederal ground of decision. Pp. 355 U. S. 319-320.

2. The ordinance is invalid on its face because it makes enjoyment of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech contingent upon the will of the Mayor and Council, and thereby constitutes a prior restraint upon, and abridges, that freedom, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 355 U. S. 321-325.

94 Ga. App. 18, 93 S. E. 2d 375, reversed.

Page 355 U. S. 314

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