Marsh v. Alabama/Concurrence Frankfurter

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Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, concurring.

So long as the views which prevailed in Jones v. Opelika, 319 U.S. 103, 63 S.Ct. 890, 87 L.Ed. 1290, in connection with 316 U.S. 584, 600, 62 S.Ct. 1231, 1240, 86 L.Ed. 1691, 141 A.L.R. 514; Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 63 S.Ct. 870, 891, 87 L.Ed. 1292, 146 A.L.R. 81; Martin v. Struthers, 319 U.S. 141, 63 S.Ct. 862, 87 L.Ed. 1313, express the law of the Constitution, I am unable to find legal significance in the fact that a town in which the Constitutional freedoms of religion and speech are invoked happens to be company-owned. These decisions accorded the purveyors of ideas, religious or otherwise, 'a preferred position', Murdock v. Pennsylvania, supra, 319 U.S. at page 115, 63 S.Ct. at page 876, 87 L.Ed. 1292, 146 A.L.R. 81, even to the extent of relieving them from an unhampering and non-discriminatory duty of bearing their share of the cost of maintaining the peace and the other amenities of a civilized society. Constitutional privileges having such a reach ought not to depend upon a State court's notion of the extent of 'dedication' or private property to public purposes. Local determinations of such technical matters govern controversies affecting property. But when decisions by State courts involving local matters are so interwoven with the decision of the question of Constitutional rights that one necessarily involves the other, State determination of local questions cannot control the Federal Constitutional right.

A company-owned town gives rise to a net-work of property relations. As to these, the judicial organ of a State has the final say. But a company-owned town is a town. In its community aspects it does not differ from other towns. These community aspects are decisive in adjusting the relations now before us, and more particularly in adjudicating the clash of freedoms which the Bill of Rights was designed to resolve-the freedom of the community to regulate its life and the freedom of the individual to exercise his religion and to disseminate his ideas. Title to property as defined by State law controls property relations; it cannot control issues of civil liberties which arise precisely because a company town is a town as well as a co geries of property relations. And similarly the technical distinctions on which a finding of 'trespass' so often depends are too tenuous to control decision regarding the scope of the vital liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

Accordingly, as I have already indicated, so long as the scope of the guarantees of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by absorption of the First remains that which the Court gave to it in the series of cases in the October Term, 1942, the circumstances of the present case seem to me clearly to fall within it. And so I agree with the opinion of the Court, except that portion of it which relies on arguments drawn from the restrictions which the Commerce Clause imposes on State regulation of commerce. It does not seem to me to further constitutional analysis to seek help for the solution of the delicate problems arising under the First Amendment from the very different order of problems which the Commerce Clause presents. The latter involves an accommodation between National and State powers operating in the same field. Where the First Amendment applies, it is a denial of all governmental power in our Federal system.