Dennis v. United States (341 U.S. 494)

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Dennis v. United States by Fred M. Vinson
Syllabus
Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951), was a United States Supreme Court case involving Eugene Dennis, general secretary of the Communist Party, USA and dealing with citizens' rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.Excerpted from Dennis v. United States on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

341 U.S. 494

Dennis v. United States

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

No. 336 Argued: December 4, 1950 --- Decided: June 4, 1951


1. As construed and applied in this case, §§ 2(a)(1), 2(a)(3) and 3 of the Smith Act, 54 Stat. 671, making it a crime for any person knowingly or willfully to advocate the overthrow or destruction of the Government of the United States by force or violence, to organize or help to organize any group which does so, or to conspire to do so, do not violate the First Amendment or other provisions of the Bill of Rights and do not violate the First or Fifth Amendments because of indefiniteness. Pp. 495-499, 517.

2. Petitioners, leaders of the Communist Party in this country, were indicted in a federal district court under § 3 of the Smith Act for willfully and knowingly conspiring (1) to organize as the Communist Party a group of persons to teach and advocate the overthrow and destruction of the Government of the United States by force and violence, and (2) knowingly and willfully to advocate and teach the duty and necessity of overthrowing and destroying the Government of the United States by force and violence. The trial judge instructed the jury that they could not convict unless they found that petitioners intended to overthrow the Government "as speedily as circumstances would permit," but that, if they so found, then, as a matter of law, there was sufficient danger of a substantive evil that Congress has a right to prevent to justify application of the statute under the First Amendment. Petitioners were convicted, and the convictions were sustained by the Court of Appeals. This Court granted certiorari, limited to the questions: (1) Whether either § 2 or § 3 of the Smith Act, inherently or as construed and applied in the instant case, violates the First Amendment and other provisions of the Bill of Rights, and (2) whether either § 2 or § 3, inherently or as construed and applied in the instant case, violates the First and Fifth Amendments because of indefiniteness.

Held: The convictions are affirmed. Pp. 495-499, 511-512, 517.

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).