Scales v. United States
367 U.S. 203 (1961)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Scales v. United States, 367 U.S. 203 (1961)

Scales v. United States

No. 1

Argued April 29, 1959

Reargued October 10, 1960

Decided June 5, 1961

367 U.S. 203

Syllabus

Petitioner was convicted of violating the so-called membership clause of the Smith Act, which makes a felony the acquisition or holding of membership in any organization which advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence, knowing the purposes thereof. The indictment charged that from January, 1946, to the date of its filing in 1954, the Communist Party of the United States was such an organization, and that, throughout that period, petitioner was a member thereof with knowledge of the Party's illegal purpose and a specific intent to accomplish overthrow of the Government "as speedily as circumstances would permit." The jury was instructed that it could not convict unless it found that, within the 3-year limitation period, (1) the Party advocated the violent overthrow of the Government, in the sense of present "advocacy of action" to accomplish that end as soon as circumstances were propitious, and (2) petitioner was an "active" member of the Party, and not merely "a nominal, passive, inactive or purely technical" member, with knowledge of the Party's illegal advocacy and a specific intent to bring about violent overthrow "as speedily as circumstances would permit."

Held: A judgment of the Court of Appeals sustaining the conviction is affirmed. Pp. 367 U. S. 205-259.

1. Section 4(f) of the Internal Security Act of 1950, which provides, in part, that neither "the holding of office nor membership in any Communist organization by any person shall constitute per se a violation" of that or any other criminal statute, did not repeal pro tanto the membership clause of the Smith Act by excluding from the reach of that clause membership in any Communist organization. Pp. 367 U. S. 206-219.

2. Petitioner's challenge to the constitutionality of the membership clause of the Smith Act must be overruled. Pp. 367 U. S. 219-230.

(a) The statute was correctly interpreted by the two lower courts. Pp. 367 U. S. 221-224.

(b) As construed and applied, the membership clause of the Smith Act does not violate the Fifth Amendment by impermissibly

Page 367 U. S. 204

imputing guilt to an individual merely on the basis of his associations and sympathies, rather than because of some concrete personal involvement in criminal conduct. Pp. 367 U. S. 224-228.

(c) As construed and applied, the membership clause of the Smith Act does not infringe freedom of political expression and association in violation of the First Amendment. Pp. 367 U. S. 228-230.

3. The evidence was sufficient to sustain the conviction. Pp. 367 U. S. 230-255.

4. None of the trial errors alleged by petitioner raises points meriting reversal. Pp. 367 U. S. 255-259.

(a) The admission of evidence about the Party's program for inciting the Negro population in the South to revolt and the admission of a pamphlet called "I Saw the Truth in Korea," which contained a very gruesome description of alleged American atrocities in Korea, were not prejudicial errors warranting reversal of the conviction. Pp. 367 U. S. 255-257.

(b) The so-called Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500, is not unconstitutional, and its application to petitioner in this case did not invalidate his conviction. Pp. 367 U. S. 257-258.

(c) Petitioner has made no showing to sustain his contention that congressional findings as to the character of the Communist Party contained in the Communist Control Act of 1954 and the Internal Security Act of 1950 deprived him of a fair trial on that issue. Pp. 367 U. S. 258-259.

(d) By his failure to comply with Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, petitioner waived any right he might have had to question the method of choosing grand jurors, and no impropriety in the method of choosing grand jurors has been shown. P. 367 U. S. 259.

260 F.2d 21, affirmed.

Page 367 U. S. 205

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.