Noto v. United States
367 U.S. 290 (1961)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Noto v. United States, 367 U.S. 290 (1961)

Noto v. United States

No. 9

Argued October 10-11, 1960

Decided June 5, 1961

367 U.S. 290

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 purpose thereof.

Held: the judgment is reversed, because the evidence was insufficient to prove that the Communist Party presently advocated forcible overthrow of the Government not as an abstract doctrine, but by the use of language reasonably and ordinarily calculated to incite persons to action, immediately or in the future. Pp. 369 U. S. 291-300.

(a) In order to support a conviction under the membership clause of the Smith Act, there must be some substantial direct or circumstantial evidence of a call to violence now or in the future which is both sufficiently strong and sufficiently pervasive to lend color to the otherwise ambiguous theoretical material regarding Communist Party teaching and to justify the inference that such a call to violence may fairly be imputed to the Party as a whole, and not merely to some narrow segment of it. P. 367 U. S. 298.

(b) It is present advocacy, not an intent to advocate in the future or a conspiracy to advocate in the future, which is an element of the crime under the membership clause of the Smith Act. P. 367 U. S. 298.

(c) A defendant must be judged upon the evidence in his own trial, and not upon the evidence in some other trial or upon what may be supposed to be the tenets of the Communist Party. P. 367 U. S. 299.

262 F. 2d 501 reversed.

Page 369 U. S. 291

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