Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cole v. Richardson case brief

Cole v. Richardson case brief summary
405 U.S. 676 (1972)

Appellants, state hospital superintendent and others, sought review of a decision of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which held that the state loyalty oath, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 264, § 14, was unconstitutional and enjoined appellants from applying the statute to prohibit appellee state employee from working for the hospital.

Appellee was hired by the hospital. She was asked to subscribe to the oath required of all public employees in the state. Claiming the oath was unconstitutional, she refused to take the oath requiring the subscriber to swear to uphold the federal and state constitutions and to oppose the overthrow of the federal and state governments. Appellee was terminated. She brought suit seeking damages and an injunction. The district court granted the injunction, finding that the "oppose the overthrow" clause was vague and unspecific and a violation of First Amendment rights. Appellants sought review.

  • The United States Supreme Court reversed, holding that: 
  • (1) the oath was constitutionally permissible; 
  • (2) the purpose of the oath was clear on its face; 
  • (3) the oath was not void for vagueness; and 
  • (4) there was no requirement that one who refused to take the oath be granted a hearing for the determination of some other fact before being discharged because no constitutional right was infringed by an oath to abide by the constitutional system in the future as there was no constitutionally protected right to overthrow a government by force, violence, or illegal or unconstitutional means.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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