YATES v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
6
Petitioner 
Yates
Respondent 
United States
Consolidation 
Schneiderman v. United States, No. 7
Richmond v. United States, No. 8
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioner in Schneiderman v. United States)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners in Yates v. United States)
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners in Richmond v. United States)
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Facts of the Case 

Fourteen leaders of the Communist Party in the state of California were tried and convicted under the Smith Act. That Act prohibited willfully and knowingly conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force. This case was decided in conjunction with Richmond v. United States and Schneiderman v. United States.

Question 

Did the Smith Act violate the First Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Yates, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Smith, Subversive Activities Control, Communist Control, or other similar federal legislation except the Internal Security Act (qv.)

In a 6-to-1 decision, the Court reversed the convictions and remanded the cases to a District Court for retrial. The Court interpreted the Smith Act in the following manner: First, the term "organize" was construed to mean the creation of a new organization, making the Act inapplicable to subsequent organizational acts. Second, the Court drew a distinction between the "advocacy and teaching of forcible overthrow as an abstract principle" and the "advocacy and teaching of concrete action for the forcible overthrow of the Government." The Court recognized that instances of speech that amounted to "advocacy of action" were "few and far between."

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YATES v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 April 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1956/1956_6>.
YATES v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1956/1956_6 (last visited April 19, 2014).
"YATES v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed April 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1956/1956_6.