United States v. Guest
383 U.S. 745 (1966)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966)

United States v. Guest

No. 65

Argued November 9, 1965

Decided March 28, 1966

383 U.S. 745

Syllabus

Appellees, six private individuals, were indicted under 18 U.S.C. § 241 for conspiring to deprive Negro citizens in the vicinity of Athens, Georgia, of the free exercise and enjoyment of rights secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States, viz., the right to use state facilities without discrimination on the basis of race, the right freely to engage in interstate travel, and the right to equal enjoyment of privately owned places of public accommodation, now guaranteed by Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The indictment specified various means by which the objects of the conspiracy would be achieved, including causing the arrest of Negroes by means of false reports of their criminal acts. The District Court dismissed the indictment on the ground that it did not involve rights which are attributes of national citizenship, to which it deemed § 241 solely applicable. The court also held the public accommodation allegation legally inadequate for failure to allege discriminatory motivation which the court thought essential to charge an interference with a right secured by Title II, and because the enforcement remedies in Title II were deemed exclusive. The United States appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act.

Held:

1. This Court has no jurisdiction under the Criminal Appeals Act to review the invalidation of that portion of the indictment concerning interference with the right to use public accommodations, the District Court's ruling with respect thereto being based, at least alternatively, not on a construction of a statute, but on what the court conceived to be a pleading defect. Pp. 383 U. S. 749-752.

2. The allegation in the indictment of state involvement in the conspiracy charged under § 241 was sufficient to charge a violation of rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 383 U. S. 753-757.

(a) Section 241 includes within its coverage Fourteenth Amendment rights whether arising under the Equal Protection

Page 383 U. S. 746

Clause, as in this case, or under the Due Process Clause, as in United States v. Price, post, p. 383 U. S. 787. P. 383 U. S. 753.

(b) As construed to protect Fourteenth Amendment rights § 241 is not unconstitutionally vague, since, by virtue of its being a conspiracy statute it operates only against an offender acting with specific intent to infringe the right in question (Screws v. United States,325 U. S. 91) and the right to equal use of public facilities described in the indictment has been made definite by decisions of this Court. Pp. 383 U. S. 753-754.

(c) The State's involvement need be neither exclusive nor direct in order to create rights under the Equal Protection Clause. P. 383 U. S. 755-756.

(d) The allegation concerning the arrest of Negroes by means of false reports was sufficiently broad to cover a charge of active connivance by state agents or other official discriminatory conduct constituting a denial of rights protected by the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 383 U. S. 756-757.

3. Section 241 reaches conspiracies specifically directed against the exercise of the constitutional right to travel freely from State to State and to use highways and other instrumentalities for that purpose; the District Court therefore erred in dismissing the branch of the indictment relating to that right. Pp. 383 U. S. 757-760.

246 F.Supp. 475, reversed and remanded.

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Primary Holding

If a state participates at all in a conspiracy, it has violated the Fourteenth Amendment with regard to any individuals whose rights are infringed, based on the constitutional right to travel.