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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States)
(argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Section 504 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) of 1959 forbids any member of the Communist Party from serving as an executive officer of a labor union, with the goal of preventing politically-motivated strikes that would pose a danger to the national economy. Archie Brown, a San Francisco longshoreman and admitted member of the Communist Party, was three times elected to the executive board of the local International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union from 1959 through 1961. On May 24, 1961, Brown was charged with violating section 504 of the LMRDA. No evidence was presented at trial suggesting that Brown was involved in any other illegal activity or plotting a political strike. Brown was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed the conviction and found that section 504 violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. In response to appeal by the United States to the Supreme Court, Brown also argued that section 504 constitutes a bill of attainder, a law that targets a single individual or group, and therefore violates Article I, Section 9.


Does section 504 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 violate the First or Fifth Amendments or Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution?

Decision: 5 votes for Brown, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure

Yes, section 504 violates Article I of the Constitution. In 5-4 opinion authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court found that section 504 was indeed a bill of attainder. Section 504, the Chief Justice argued, "plainly" constituted a bill of attainder, defined in the opinion as "legislative punishment, of any form or severity, of specifically designated persons or groups," by designating "in no uncertain terms the persons who posses the feared characteristics." After finding that section 504 violated the Bill of Attainder Clause, the Court found no need to address questions pertaining to the First and Fifth Amendments.

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UNITED STATES v. BROWN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_399>.
UNITED STATES v. BROWN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_399 (last visited August 26, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. BROWN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1964/1964_399.