Healy v. James - 408 U.S. 169 (1972)
U.S. Supreme Court
Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972)
Healy v. James
Argued March 28, 1972
Decided June 26, 1972
408 U.S. 169
Petitioners, seeking to form a local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at a state-supported college, were denied recognition as a campus organization. Recognition would have entitled petitioners to use campus facilities for meetings and to use of the campus bulletin board and school newspaper. The college president denied recognition because he was not satisfied that petitioners' group was independent of the National SDS, which he concluded has a philosophy of disruption and violence in conflict with the college's declaration of student rights. Petitioners thereupon brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court first ordered a further administrative hearing, after which the president reaffirmed his prior decision. Approving the president's judgment, the District Court held that petitioners had failed to show that they could function free from the National SDS and that the college's refusal to approve the group, which the court found "likely to cause violent acts of disruption," did not violate petitioners' associational rights. The Court of Appeals, purporting not to reach the First Amendment issues, affirmed on the ground that petitioners had failed to avail themselves of the due process accorded to them and to meet their burden of complying with the prevailing standards for recognition.
1. The courts erred in (1) discounting the cognizable First Amendment associational interest that petitioners had in furthering their personal beliefs and (2) assuming that the burden was on petitioners to show entitlement to recognition by the college, rather than on the college to justify its nonrecognition of the group, once petitioners had made application conformably to college requirements. Pp. 408 U. S. 180-185.
2. Insofar as the denial of recognition to petitioners' group was based on an assumed relationship with the National SDS, or was a result of disagreement with the group's philosophy, or was a consequence of a fear of disruption, for which there was no support in the record, the college's decision violated the petitioners' First Amendment rights. A proper basis for nonrecognition might have
been afforded, however, by a showing that the group refused to comply with a rule requiring them to abide by reasonable campus regulations. Since the record is not clear whether the college ha such a rule, and, if so, whether petitioners intend to observe it, these issues remain to be resolved. Pp. 408 U. S. 185-194.
45 F.2d 1122, reversed and remanded.
POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 408 U. S. 195. DOUGLAS, J., filed a separate opinion, post, p. 408 U. S. 196. REHNQUIST, J., filed a statement concurring in the result, post, p. 408 U. S. 201.