NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Flowers
377 U.S. 288 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Flowers, 377 U.S. 288 (1964)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

v. Alabama ex rel. Flowers

No. 169

Argued March 24, 1964

Decided June 1, 1964

377 U.S. 288

Syllabus

Alleging noncompliance with Alabama's corporate registration and business qualification laws, the State in 1956 brought ouster proceedings against the petitioner, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a New York membership corporation with an office in Alabama and doing business there, and it was barred under an ex parte restraining order from operating in the State. Before any hearing on the merits, a contempt judgment, which the State Supreme Court on procedural grounds refused to review, was rendered against the NAACP for failure to produce its membership lists and other records under court order. Without reaching the validity of the underlying restraining order, this Court reversed, and, following reinstatement by the State Supreme Court of the contempt judgment, reversed again. In 1960, the NAACP, still prohibited from operating in Alabama, sued in a federal court alleging failure by the Alabama courts to afford it a hearing on the merits. The case reached this Court a third time, and, in 1961, was remanded with instructions that the Federal District Court be directed to try the case on the merits unless the State did so by a certain time. The State Circuit Court then heard the case; found that the NAACP had violated the State's constitution and laws; and permanently enjoined it from doing business in the State. The State Supreme Court affirmed, solely on the basis of a procedural rule, which it applied to the NAACP's brief, that where unrelated assignments of error are argued together and one is without merit, the others will not be considered.

Held:

1. There was substantial compliance with the procedural rule, and failure to consider petitioner's asserted constitutional rights was wholly unwarranted. Pp. 377 U. S. 293-302.

2. In view of what has gone before, this Court is deciding the case on its merits, rather than remanding it to the State Supreme Court for that purpose. P. 377 U. S. 302.

Page 377 U. S. 289

3. Alabama's corporate registration requirements are to ensure amenability of foreign corporations to suit in state courts, and do not provide for a corporation's permanent ouster for failure to register or because it engaged in other activities, which, in any event, furnished no proper basis for excluding the petitioner from Alabama. Pp. 377 U. S. 302-310.

4. This case does not involve the privilege of a corporation to do "business" in a State; it involves the freedom of individuals to associate for the collective advocacy of ideas. P. 377 U. S. 309.

5. While this Court has power to formulate a decree for entry in the state courts, as held in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheat. 304, the case is remanded to the State Supreme Court for prompt entry of a decree vacating the permanent injunction order against petitioner and permitting it to operate in the State, failing which the NAACP may apply to this Court for further appropriate relief. P. 377 U. S. 310.

274 Ala. 544, 150 So. 2d 677, reversed and remanded.

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