Bates v. City of Little Rock/Opinion of the Court
|Bates v. City of Little Rock by
Opinion of the Court
United States Supreme Court
BATES v. CITY OF LITTLE ROCK
Argued: Nov. 18, 1959. --- Decided: Feb 23, 1960
Each of the petitioners has been convicted of violating an identical ordinance of an Arkansas municipality by refusing a demand to furnish city officials with a list of the names of the members of a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The question for decision is whether these convictions can stand under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Municipalities in Arkansas are authorized by the State to levy a license tax on any person, firm, individual, or corporation engaging in any 'trade, business, profession, vocation or calling' within their corporate limits.  Pursuant to this authority, the City of Little Rock and the City of North Little Rock have for some years imposed annual license taxes on a broad variety of businesses, occupations, and professions.  Charitable organizations which engage in the activities affected are relieved from paying the taxes.
In 1957 the two cities added identical amendments to their occupation license tax ordinances. These amendments require that any organization operating within the municipality in question must supply to the City Clerk, upon request and within a specified time, (1) the official name of the organization; (2) its headquarters or regular meeting place; (3) the names of the officers, agents, servants, employees, or representatives, and their salaries; (4) the purpose of the organization; (5) a statement as to dues, assessments, and contributions paid, by whom and when paid, together with a statement reflecting the disposition of the funds and the total net income; (6) an affidavit stating whether the organization is subordinate to a parent organization, and if so, the latter's name. The ordinances expressly provide that all information furnished shall be public and subject to the inspection of any interested party at all reasonable business hours. 
Petitioner Bates was the custodian of the records of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Little Rock, and petitioner Williams was the custodian of the records of the North Little Rock branch. These local organizations supplied the two municipalities with all the information required by the ordinances, except that demanded under § 2E of each ordinance which would have required disclosure of the names of the organizations' members and contributors. Instead of furnishing the detailed breakdown required by this section of the North Little Rock ordinance, the petitioner Williams wrote to the City Clerk as follows: 'E. The financial statement is as follows:
January 1, 1957 to December 4, 1957.
(to National Office)
^1 Ark.stat. 1947, § 19-4601.
^2 Little Rock Ord. No. 7444. North Little Rock Ord. No. 1786. These ordinances have been amended numerous times by adding various businesses, occupations and professions to be licensed, and by changing the rates of the taxes imposed.
^3 The pertinent provisions of the ordinances are as follows:
'Whereas, it has been found and determined that certain organizations within the City * * * have been claiming immunity from the terms of (the ordinance), governing the payment of occupation licenses levied for the privilege of doing business within the city, upon the premise that such organizations are benevolent, charitable, mutual benefit, fraternal or non-profit, and
'Whereas, many such organizations claiming the occupation license exemption are mere subterfuges for businesses being operated for profit which are subject to the occupation license ordinance;
'Now, Therefore, Be It Ordained by the City Council of the City * * *.:
'Section 1. The word 'organization' as used herein means any group of individuals, whether incorporated or unincorporated.
'Section 2. Any organization operating or functioning within the City * * * including but not limited to civic, fraternal, political, mutual benefit, legal, medical, trade, or other organization, upon the request of the Mayor, Alderman, Member of the Board of Directors, City Clerk, City Collector, or City Attorney, shall list with the City Clerk the following information within 15 days after such request is submitted:
'A. The official name of the organization.
'B. The office, place of business, headquarters or usual meeting place of such organization.
'C. The officers, agents, servants, employees or representatives of such organization, and the salaries paid to them.
'D. The purpose or purposes of such organization.
'E. A financial statement of such organization, including dues, fees, assessments and/or contributions paid, by whom paid, and the date thereof, together with the statement reflecting the disposition of such sums, to whom and when paid, together with the total net income of such organization.
'F. An affidavit by the president or other officiating officer of the organization stating whether the organization is subordinate to a parent organization, and if so, the name of the parent organization.
'Section 3. This ordinance shall be cumulative to other ordinances heretofore passed by the City with reference to occupation licenses and the collection thereof.
'Section 4. All information obtained pursuant to this ordinance shall be deemed public and subject to the inspection of any interested party at all reasonable business hours.
'Section 5. Any section or part of this ordinance declared to be unconstitutional or void shall not affect the remaining sections of the ordinance, and to this end the sections or subsections hereof are declared to be severable.
'Section 6. Any person or organization who shall violate the provisions of this ordinance shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined * * *.'
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|