NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449; 78 S. Ct. 1163; 2 L. Ed. 2d 1488 (1958)

NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449; 78 S. Ct. 1163; 2 L. Ed. 2d 1488 (1958)

Facts—Alabama sought to enjoin the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from conducting further activities within the state. As a foreign corporation, Alabama courts had found the NAACP in contempt because of its failure to supply its membership list to the state (it had provided other requested records). In addition to fining the organization $100,000, the Circuit Court of Alabama had enjoined the organization from further activities within the state, a decision that the Alabama Supreme Court refused to review.

Question—Does Alabama’s order to the NAACP to produce its membership list violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision—Yes, this order interfered with the right of association that is necessary to effective advocacy.

ReasonsJ. Harlan (9–0). Harlan first established that the Court had jurisdiction, denying that the Alabama Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari either rested on “an independent nonfederal ground” or was consistent with its own precedents. Harlan further accepted the right of the NAACP to assert the rights of its members: “To require that it be claimed by the members them- selves would result in nullification of the right at the very moment of its asser- tion.” Lawful association is tied to effective advocacy. Court decisions have established “the close nexus between the freedoms of speech and assembly” and “between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s association.” Past disclosures of NAACP memberships have led to “economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility.” Although the state argued that such consequences would be the result of private rather than state action, “the crucial factor is the interplay of governmental and private action, for it is only after the initial exertion of state power represented by the production order that private action takes hold.” Alabama has not established a substantial need for such information, and its order to produce the membership list is thus invalid.

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