Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dennis v. United States case brief

Dennis v. United States case brief summary
341 U.S. 494 (1951)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for violations of §§ 2 and 3 of the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 10 and 11. The Supreme Court granted defendants' petition for a writ of certiorari.

Defendants were members of the Communist Party who were convicted of violating the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 11, by conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the United States. The appellate court affirmed and the Supreme Court subsequently granted certiorari.

Upon review, the Court affirmed the conviction, holding that §§ 2 and 3 of the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 10 and 11, as applied to defendants did not violate their First Amendment rights because their conduct presented a clear and present danger of attempting to accomplish a crime that was within Congress' power to punish. Further, there was no First Amendment violation where defendants' advocacy exceeded peaceful study and discussion because they planned to overthrow the government as fast as circumstances would permit. Finally, §§ 2 and 3 of the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 10 and 11, were not unconstitutionally overbroad because the statute sufficiently put defendants on notice as to the limitations of their conduct, and the statute was properly applied by the trial judge as a matter of law where there was a clear and present danger of substantive evil.

The Court affirmed the appellate court judgment upholding defendants' convictions.

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