SCALES v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
1
Petitioner 
Scales
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(Reargued the cause for the petitioner)
(Reargued the cause for the United States)
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Facts of the Case 

The Smith Act's membership clause prohibited membership in organizations advocating the violent or forceful overthrow of the United States government. Junius Scales was criminally charged with membership in the Communist Party of the United States ("Party") because it advocated the overthrow of the government "as speedily as circumstances would permit." Challenging his felony charge, Scales claimed that the Internal Security Act of 1950 ("Security Act") stated that membership in a Communist organization shall not constitute a per se violation of any criminal statute. After failing in both a district and appellate court, Scales' appeal to the Supreme Court was granted certiorari.

Question 

Does a Communist Party member's conviction under the Smith Act, which makes a felony the knowing membership in organizations advocating the violent or forceful overthrow of the United States government, violate the Fifth Amendment's due process clause in light of the apparent protections afforded to such members under the Internal Security Act?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for United States, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Smith, Subversive Activities Control, Communist Control, or other similar federal legislation except the Internal Security Act (qv.)

No. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the Security Act protects "per se" members of an organization from criminal prosecution. The Smith Act, by contrast, goes beyond "per se" participation by targeting those whose membership in an organization entails their knowing and deliberate participation in criminal activity. In light of this distinction, the Court noted, the two Acts are not conflicted. Since Scales, at the very least, knew, encouraged, and provoked illegal Party activities over the course of his eight year membership, he was guilty under the Smith Act of complicity in the commission of criminal activity.

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SCALES v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 August 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1958/1958_1_2>.
SCALES v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1958/1958_1_2 (last visited August 19, 2014).
"SCALES v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1958/1958_1_2.