Speiser v. Randall
357 U.S. 513 (1958)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513 (1958)

Speiser v. Randall

No. 483

Argued April 8-9, 1958

Decided June 30, 1958*

357 U.S. 513

Syllabus

Solely because they refused to subscribe oaths that they do not advocate the overthrow of the Federal or State Government by force, violence or other unlawful means, or advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in event of hostilities, appellants were denied tax exemptions provided for veterans by the California Constitution. The filing of such an oath was required by a California statute as a prerequisite to qualification for the tax exemption, in order to effectuate a provision of the State Constitution denying any tax exemption to any person who advocates such actions, which was construed by the State Supreme Court as denying tax exemptions only to claimants who engage in speech which may be criminally punished consistently with the free speech guarantees of the Federal Constitution.

Held: Enforcement of this provision through procedures which place the burdens of proof and persuasion on the taxpayers denied them freedom of speech without the procedural safeguards required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 357 U. S. 514-529.

1. A discriminatory denial of a tax exemption for engaging in speech is a limitation on free speech. Pp. 357 U. S. 518-520.

2. The method chosen by California for determining whether a claimant is a member of the class to which its Supreme Court has said that the tax exemption is denied does not provide the procedural safeguards required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment before free speech may be denied, since it places on the taxpayer the burden of proving that he is not a member of that class. Pp. 357 U. S. 520-529.

(a) When a State undertakes to restrain unlawful advocacy, it must provide procedures which are adequate to safeguard against infringement of constitutionally protected rights. Pp. 357 U. S. 520-521.

(b) The California procedure places upon the taxpayer the burden of proving that he does not criminally advocate the overthrow

Page 357 U. S. 514

of the Federal or State Government by force, violence, or other unlawful means or advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in the event of hostilities. Pp. 357 U. S. 521-523.

(c) It does not follow that because only a tax liability is here involved, the ordinary tax assessment procedures are adequate when applied to penalize speech. Pp. 357 U. S. 523-525.

(d) Since free speech is involved, due process requires in the circumstances of this case that the State bear the burden of showing that appellants engaged in criminal speech. Pp. 357 U. S. 525-526.

(e) Garner v. Board of Public Works,341 U. S. 716; Gerende v. Board of Supervisors,341 U. S. 56, and American Communications Assn. v. Douds,339 U. S. 382, distinguished. Pp. 357 U. S. 527-528.

(f) When the constitutional right to speak is sought to be deterred by a State's general taxing program, due process demands that the speech be unencumbered until the State comes forward with sufficient proof to justify its inhibition. Pp. 357 U. S. 528-529.

(g) Since the entire statutory procedure violated the requirements of due process by placing the burdens of proof and persuasion on them, appellants were not obliged to take even the first step in such procedure as a condition for obtaining the tax exemption. P. 357 U. S. 529.

48 Cal.2d 472, 903, 311 P.2d 544, 546, reversed, and cause remanded.

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