Poe v. Ullman/Dissent Harlan

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United States Supreme Court

367 U.S. 497

Poe  v.  Ullman

 Argued: March 1, 2, 1961. --- Decided: June 19, 1961

Mr. Justice HARLAN, dissenting.

I am compelled, with all respect, to dissent from the dismissal of these appeals. In my view the course which the Court has taken does violence to established concepts of 'justiciability,' and unjustifiably leaves these appellants under the threat of unconstitutional prosecution. Regrettably, an adequate exposition of my views calls for a dissenting opinion of unusual length.

Between them these suits seek declaratory relief against the threatened enforcement of Connecticut's antibirth-control laws making criminal the use of contraceptives, insofar as such laws relate to the use of contraceptives by married persons and the giving of advice to married persons in their use. [1] The appellants, a married couple, a married woman, and a doctor, ask that it be adjudged, contrary to what the Connecticut courts have held, that such laws, as threatened to be applied to them in circumstances described in the opinion announcing the judgment of the Court (ante, 367 U.S. at pages 498-500, 81 S.Ct. at pages 1753-1754), violate the Fourteenth Amendment, in that they deprive appellants of life, liberty, or property without due process.

The plurality opinion of the Court gives, as the basis for dismissing the appeals, the reason that, as to the two married appellants, the lack of demonstrated enforcement of the Connecticut statute bespeaks an absence of exigent adversity which is posited as the condition for evoking adjudication from us, and, as to the doctor, that his compliance with the state statute is uncoerced by any 'realistic fear of prosecution,' giving due recognition to his 'standing as a physician and to his personal sensitiveness.' With these reasons it appears that the concurring opinion agrees.

In Alabama State Federation of Labor, etc. v. McAdory, 325 U.S. 450, 462, 65 S.Ct. 1384, 1390, 89 L.Ed. 1725, it was said that 'declaratory judgment procedure may be resorted to only in the sound discretion of the Court and where the interests of justice will be advanced and an adequate and effective judgment may be rendered.' In my view of these cases a present determination of the Constitutional issues is the n ly course which will advance justice, and I can find no sound reason born of considerations as to the possible inadequacy or ineffectiveness of the judgment that might be rendered which justifies the Court's contrary disposition. While ordinarily I would not deem it appropriate to deal, in dissent, with Constitutional issues which the Court has not reached, I shall do so here because such issues, as I see things, are entangled with the Court's conclusion as to the nonjusticiability of these appeals.

Part One.


There can be no quarrel with the plurality opinion's statement that 'Justiciability is of course not a legal concept with a fixed content or susceptible of scientific verification,' but, with deference, the fact that justiciability is not precisely definable does not make it ineffable. Although a large number of cases are brought to bear on the conclusion that is reached, I think it is fairly demonstrable that the authorities fall far short of compelling dismissal of these appeals. [2] Even so, it is suggested that the cases do point the way to a 'rigorous insistence on exigent adversity' and a 'policy against premature constitutional decision,' which properly understood does indeed demand that result.

The policy referred to is one to which I unreservedly subscribe. Without undertaking to be definitive, I would suppose it is a policy the wisdom of which is woven of several strands: (1) Due regard for the fact that the source of the Court's power lies ultimately in its duty to decide, in conformity with the Constitution, the particular controversies which come to it, and does not arise from some generalized power of supervision over state and national legislatures; (2) therefore it should insist that litigants bring to the Court interests and rights which require present recognition and controversies demanding immediate resolution; (3) also it follows that the controversy must be one which is in truth and fact the litigant's own, so that the clash of adversary contest which is needed to sharpen and illuminate issues is present and gives that aid on which our adjudicatory system has come to rely; (4) finally, it is required that other means of redress for the particular right claimed be unavailable, so that the process of the Court may not become overburdened and conflicts with other courts or departments of government may not needlessly be created, which might come about if either those truly affected are not the ones demanding relief, or if the relief we can give is not truly needed.

In particularization of this composite policy the Court, in the course of its decisions on matters of justiciability, has developed and given expression to a number of important limitations on the exercise of its jurisdiction, the presence or absence of which here should determine the justiciability of these appeals. Since allo f them are referred to here in one way or another, it is well to proceed to a disclosure of those which are not involved in the present appeals, thereby focusing attention on the one factor on which reliance appears to be placed by both the plurality and concurring opinions in this instance.

First: It should by now be abundantly clear that the fact that only Constitutional claims are presented in proceedings seeking anticipatory relief against state criminal statutes does not for that reason alone make the claims premature. See, e.g., Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197, 44 S.Ct. 15, 68 L.Ed. 255; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070; Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303. Whatever general pronouncements may be found to the contrary must, in context, be seen to refer to considerations quite different from anything present in these cases.

Thus in Alabama State Federation of Labor, etc. v. McAdory, supra, anticipatory relief was withheld for the precise reason that normally this Court ought not to consider the Constitutionality of a state statute in the absence of a controlling interpretation of its meaning and effect by the state courts. To the same effect see Parker v. Los Angeles County, 338 U.S. 327, 70 S.Ct. 161, 94 L.Ed. 144; Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387, 61 S.Ct. 962, 85 L.Ed. 1416; Beal v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 312 U.S. 45, 61 S.Ct. 418, 85 L.Ed. 577. Indeed, without belaboring the point, the principle that anticipatory relief against state criminal statutes is not unavailable as a general matter may best be illustrated by several cases recently decided in this Court. In Harrison v. N.A.A.C.P., 360 U.S. 167, 79 S.Ct. 1025, 3 L.Ed.2d 1152, the premise of our action was that anticipatory relief should be obtained, if possible-with review here on certiorari or appeal-in a state court which could then authoritatively construe a new and ambiguous state statute; only if such relief were unavailable, should a Federal District Court exercise its statutory jurisdiction. And in our recent decisions upholding the Constitutionality of state Sunday-closing laws, 366 U.S. 420 et seq., 81 S.Ct. 1101 et seq., not one of the opinions paused even slightly over the appropriateness of anticipatory relief, although in one case that issue was argued, Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market, 366 U.S. 617, 81 S.Ct. 1122.

Hence, any language in the cases where the Court has abstained from exercising its jurisdiction, to the effect that we should not 'entertain constitutional questions in advance of the strictest necessity,' Parker v. Los Angeles County, supra, 338 U.S. at page 333, 70 S.Ct. at page 164, is not at all apposite in the present cases. For these appeals come to us from the highest court of Connecticut, thus affording us-in company with previous state interpretations of the same statute-a clear construction of the scope of the statute, thereby in effect assuring that our review constitutes no greater interference with state administration than the state procedures themselves allow.

Second: I do not think these appeals may be dismissed for want of 'ripeness' as that concept has been understood in its 'varied applications.' [3] There is no lack of 'ripeness' in the sense that is exemplified by cases such as Stearns v. Wood, 236 U.S. 75, 35 S.Ct. 229, 59 L.Ed. 475; Electric Bond & Share Co. v. Securities & Exchange Comm., 303 U.S. 419, 58 S.Ct. 678, 82 L.Ed. 936; United Public Workers of America (C.I.O.) v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 67 S.Ct. 556, 91 L.Ed. 754; International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, Local 37 Union v. Boyd, 347 U.S. 222, 74 S.Ct. 447, 98 L.Ed. 650; and perhaps again Parker v. Los Angeles County, supra. In all of those cases the lack of ripeness inhered in the fact that the need for some further procedure, some further contingency of application or interpretation, whether judicial, administrative or executive, or some furtherc larification of the intentions of the claimant, served to make remote the issue which was sought to be presented to the Court. Certainly the appellants have stated in their pleadings fully and unequivocally what it is that they intend to do; no clarifying or resolving contingency stands in their way before they may embark on that conduct. Thus there is no circumstance besides that of detection or prosecution to make remote the particular controversy. And it is clear beyond cavil that the mere fact that a controversy such as this is rendered still more unavoidable by an actual prosecution, is not alone sufficient to make the case too remote, not ideally enough 'ripe' for adjudication, at the prior stage of anticipatory relief.

Moreover, it follows from what has already been said that there is no such want of ripeness as was presented in Rescue Army v. Municipal Court, 331 U.S. 549, 67 S.Ct. 1409, 91 L.Ed. 1666, or in our recent decisions dismissing the appeals in Atlanta Newspapers, Inc. v. Grimes, 364 U.S. 290, 81 S.Ct. 63, 5 L.Ed.2d 39, and United States v. Fruehauf, 365 U.S. 146, 81 S.Ct. 547, 5 L.Ed.2d 476, where the records presented for adjudication a controversy so artifically truncated as to make the cases not susceptible to intelligent decision. I cannot see what further elaboration is required to enable us to decide the appellants' claims, and indeed neither the plurality opinion nor the concurring opinion-not-withstanding the latter's characterization of this record as 'skimpy'-suggests what mere grist is needed before the judicial mill could turn.

Third: This is not a feigned, hypothetical, friendly or colorable suit such as discloses 'a want of a truly adversary contest.' Clearly these cases are not analogous to Wood-Paper Co. v. Heft, 8 Wall. 333, 19 L.Ed. 379, or South Spring Hill Gold Mining Co. v. Amador Medean Gold Mining Co., 145 U.S. 300, 12 S.Ct. 921, 36 L.Ed. 712, where prior to consideration the controversy in effect became moot by the merger of the two contesting interests. Nor is there any question of collusion as in Lord v. Veazie, 8 How. 251, 12 L.Ed. 1067, or in United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 302, 63 S.Ct. 1075, 87 L.Ed. 1413. And there is nothing to suggest that the parties by their conduct of this litigation have cooperated to force an adjudication of a Constitutional issue which-were the parties interested solely in winning their cases rather than obtaining a Constitutional decision-might not arise in an arm's-length contested proceeding. Such was the situation in Chicago & Grand Trunk R. Co. v. Wellman, 143 U.S. 339, 12 S.Ct. 400, 36 L.Ed. 176, where the parties sought a ruling as to whether a particular passenger rate was unconstitutionally confiscatory, having stipulated all the debatable and contingent facts which otherwise might have rendered a Constitutional decision unnecessary.

In the present appeals no more is alleged or conceded than is consistent with undisputed facts and with ordinary practice in deciding a case for anticipatory relief on demurrer. I think it is unjustifiably stretching things to assume that appellants are not deterred by the threat of prosecution from eg aging in the conduct in which they assert a right to engage, or to assume that appellee's demurrer to the proposition that he asserts the right to enforce the statute against appellants at any time he chooses is anything but a candid one.

Indeed, as will be developed below, I think both the plurality and concurring opinions confuse on this score the predictive likelihood that, had they not brought themselves to appellee's attention, he would not enforce the statute against them, with some entirely suppositious 'tacit agreement' not to prosecute, thereby ignoring the prosecutor's claim, asserted in these very proceedings, of a right, at his unbounded prosecutorial discretion, to enforce the statute.

Fourth: The doctrine of the cases dealing with a litigant's lack of standing to raise a Constitutional claim is said to justify the dismissal of these appeals. The precedents put forward as examples of this doctrine, see the plurality opinion, note 5, as well as cases such as Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon (Frothingham v. Mellon) 262 U.S. 447, 43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078, and State of Texas v. Interstate Commerce Comm., 258 U.S. 158, 42 S.Ct. 261, 66 L.Ed. 531, do indeed stand for the proposition that a legal claim will not be considered at the instance of one who has no real and concrete interest in its vindication. This is well in accord with the grounds for declining jurisdiction suggested above. But this doctrine in turn needs further particularization lest it become a catchall for an unarticulated discretion on the part of this Court to decline to adjudicate appeals involving Constitutional issues.

There is no question but that appellants here are asserting rights which are peculiarly their own, and which, if they are to be raised at all, may be raised most appropriately by them. Cf. Tileston v. Ullman, 318 U.S. 44, 63 S.Ct. 493, 87 L.Ed. 603; State of Texas v. Interstate Commerce Comm., supra; Yazoo & Mississippi Valley R. Co. v. Jackson Vinegar Co., 226 U.S. 217, 33 S.Ct. 40, 57 L.Ed. 193; Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288, 341, 56 S.Ct. 466, 480, 80 L.Ed. 688 (concurring opinion). Nor do I understand the argument to be that this is the sort of claim which is too remote ever to be pressed by anyone, because no one is ever sufficiently involved. Cf. Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon (Frothingham v. Mellon), supra. Thus, in truth, it is not the parties pressing this claim but the occasion chosen for pressing it which is objected to. But as has been shown the fact that it is anticipatory relief which is asked cannot of itself make the occasion objectionable.

We are brought, then, to the precise failing in these proceedings which is said to justify refusal to exercise our mandatory appellate jurisdiction: that there has been but one recorded Connecticut case dealing with a prosecution under the statute. [4] The significance of this lack of recorded evidence of prosecutions is said to make the presentation of appellants' rights too remote, too contingent, too hypothetical for adjudication in the light of the policies already considered. See 367 U.S. at pages 526-530, 81 S.Ct. at pages 1768-1770, supra. In my view it is only as a result of misconceptions both about the purport of the record before us and about the nature of the rights appellants put forward that this conclusion can be reached.

As far as the record is concerned, I think it is pure conjecture, and indeed conjecture which to me seems contrary to realities, that an open violation of the statute by a doctor (or more obviously still by a birth-control clinic) would not resul in a substantial threat of prosecution. Crucial to the opposite conclusion is the description of the 1940 prosecution instituted in State v. Nelson, 126 Conn. 412, 11 A.2d 856, as a 'test case' which, as it is viewed, scarcely even punctuates the uniform state practice of nonenforcement of this statute. I read the history of Connecticut enforcement in a very different light. The Nelson case, as appears from the state court's opinion, was a prosecution of two doctors and a nurse for aiding and abetting violations of this statute by married women in prescribing and advising the use of contraceptive materials by them. It is true that there is evidence of a customary unwillingness to enforce the statute prior to Nelson, for in that case the prosecutor stated to the trial court in a later motion to discontinue the prosecutions that 'When this Waterbury clinic (operated by the defendants) was opened there were in open operation elsewhere in the State at least eight other contraceptive clinics which had been in existence for a long period of time and no questions as to their right to operate had been raised * * *.' [5]

What must also be noted is that the prosecutor followed this statement with an explanation that the primary purpose of the prosecution was to provide clear warning to all those who, like Nelson, might rely on this practice of nonenforcement. He stated that the purpose of the prosecution was:

'the establishment of the constitutional validity and efficacy of the statutes under which these accused are informed against. Henceforth any person, whether a physician or layman, who violates the provisions of these statutes, must expect to be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the literal provisions of the law.' [6]

Thus the respect in which Nelson was a test case is only that it was brought for the purpose of making entirely clear the State's power and willingness to enforce against 'any person, whether a physician or layman' (emphasis supplied), the statute and to eliminate from future cases the very doubt about the existence of these elements which had resulted in eight open birth-control clinics, and which would have made unfair the conviction of Nelson.

The plurality opinion now finds, and the concurring opinion must assume, that the only explanation of the absence of recorded prosecutions subsequent to the Nelson case is that Connecticut has renounced that intention to prosecute and punish 'any person * * * in accordance with the literal provisions of the law' which it announced in Nelson. But if renunciation of the purposes of the Nelson prosecution is consistent with a lack of subsequent prosecutions, success of that purpose is no less consistent with this lack. I find it difficult to believe that doctors generally and not just those operating specialized clinics-would continue openly to disseminate advice about contraceptives after Nelson in reliance on the State's supposed unwillingness to prosecute, or to consider that high-minded members of the profession would in consequence of such inaction deem themselves warranted in disrespecting this law so long as it is on the books. Nor can I regard as 'chimerical' the fear of enforcemento f these provisions that seems to have caused the disappearance of at least nine birth-control clinics. [7] In short, I fear that the Court has indulged in a bit of sleight of hand to be rid of this case. It has treated the significance of the absence of prosecutions during the twenty years since Nelson as identical with that of the absence of prosecutions during the years before Nelson. It has ignored the fact that the very purpose of the Nelson prosecution was to change defiance into compliance. It has ignored the very possibility that this purpose may have been successful. [8] The result is to postulate a security from prosecution for open defiance of the statute which I do not believe the record supports. [9]

These considerations alone serve to bring appellants so squarely within the rule of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070, and Tra x v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 36 S.Ct. 7, 60 L.Ed. 131, that further demonstration would be pointless.

But even if Dr. Buxton were not in the litigation and appellants the Poes and Doe were seeking simply to use contraceptives without any need of consulting a physician beforehand-which is not the case we have, although it is the case which the plurality opinion of the Court is primarily concerned to discuss-even then I think that it misconceives the concept of justiciability and the nature of these appellants' rights to say that the failure of the State to carry through any criminal prosecution requires dismissal of their appeals.

The Court's disposition assumes that to decide the case now, in the absence of any consummated prosecutions, is unwise because it forces a difficult decision in advance of any exigent necessity therefor. Of course it is abundantly clear that this requisite necessity can exist prior to any actual prosecution, for that is the theory of anticipatory relief, and is by now familiar law. What must be relied on, therefore, is that the historical absence of prosecutions in some way leaves these appellants free to violate the statute without fear of prosecution, whether or not the law is Constitutional, and thus absolves us from the duty of deciding if it is. Despite the suggestion of a 'tougher and truer law' of immunity from criminal prosection and despite speculation as to a 'tacit agreement' that this law will not be enforced, there is, of course, no suggestion of an estoppel against the State if it should attempt to prosecute appellants. Neither the plurality nor the concurring opinion suggests that appellants have some legally cognizable right not to be prosecuted if the statute is Constitutional. What is meant is simply that the appellants are more or less free to act without fear of prosecution because the prosecuting authorities of the State, in their discretion and at their whim, are, as a matter of prediction, unlikely to decide to prosecute.

Here is the core of my disagreement with the present disposition. As I will develop later in this opinion, the most substantial claim which these married persons press is their right to enjoy the privacy of their marital relations free of the enquiry of the criminal law, whether it be in a prosecution of them or of a doctor whom they have consulted. And I cannot agreed that their enjoyment of this privacy is not substantially impinged upon, when they are told that if they use contraceptives, indeed whether they do so or not, the only thing which stands between them and being forced to render criminal account of their marital privacy is the whim of the prosecutor. [10] Connecticut's highest court has told us in the clearest terms that, given proof, the prosecutor will succeed if he decides to bring a proceeding against one of the appellants for taking the precise actions appellants have announced they intend to take. The State Court does not agree that there has come into play a 'tougher and truer law than the dead words of the written text,' and in the light of twelve unsuccessful attempts since 1943 to change this legislation, Poe v. Ullman, 147 Conn. 48, 56, note 2, 156 A.2d 508, 513, this position is not difficult to understand. Prosecution and conviction for the clearly spelled-out actions the appellants wish to take is not made unlikely by any fortuitous factor outside the control of the parties, nor is it made uncertain by possible variations in the actions appellants actually take from those the state courts have already passed upon. All that stands between the appellants and jail is the legally unfettered whim of the prosecutor and the Constitutional issue this Court today refuses to decide.

If we revert again to the reasons underlying our reluctance to exercise a jurisdiction which technically we possess, and the concrete expression of those underlying reasons in our cases, see 367 U.S. at pages 526-531, 81 S.Ct. at pages 1768-1770, supra, then I think it must become clear that there is no justification for failing to decide these married persons's appeals. The controversy awaits nothing but an actual prosecution, and, as will be shown, the substantial damage against which these appellants, Mrs. Doe and the Poes, are entitled to protection will be accomplished by such a prosecution, whatever its outcome in the state courts or here. By the present decision, although as a general matter the parties would be entitled to our review in an anticipatory proceeding which the State allowed to be instituted in its courts, these appellants are made to await actual prosecution before we will hear them. Indeed it appears that whereas appellants would surely have been entitled to review were this a new statute, see Harrison v. N.A.A.C.P., supra, the State here is enabled to maintain at least some substantial measure of compliance with this statute and still obviate any review in this Court, by the device of purely discretionary prosecutorial inactivity. It seems to me to destroy the whole purpose of anticipatory relief to consider the prosecutor's discretion, once all legal and administrative channels have been cleared, as in any way analogous to those other contingencies which make remote a controversy presenting Constitutional claims.

In this light it is not surprising that the Court's position is without support in the precedents. [11] Indeed it seems to me that Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070, provides very clear authority contrary to the position of the Court in this case, for there a Court which included Justices Holmes, Brandeis, and Stone rejected a claim of prematureness and then passed upon and held unconstitutional a state statute whose sanctions were not even to become effective for more than seventeen months after the time the case was argued to this Court. The Court found allegations of present loss of business, caused by the threat of the statute's future enforcement against the Society's clientele, sufficient to make the injury to the Society 'present and very real.' 268 U.S. at page 536, 45 S.Ct. at page 574. I cannot regard as less present, or less real, the tendency to discourage the exercise of the liberties of these appellants, caused by reluctance to submit their freedoms from prosecution and conviction to the discretion of the Connecticut prosecuting authorities. I therefore think it incumbent on us to consider the merits of appellants' Constitutional claims.

Part Two.


I consider that this Connecticut legislation, as construed to apply to these appellants, violates the Fourteenth Amendment. I believe that a statute making it a criminal offense for married couples to use contraceptives is an intolerable and unjustifiable invasion of privacy in the conduct of the most intimate concerns of an individual's personal life. I reach this conclusion, even though I find it difficult and unnecessary at this juncture to accept appellants' other argument that the judgment of policy behind the statute, so applied, is so arbitrary and unreasonable as to render the enactment invalid for that reason alone. Since both the contentions draw their basis from no explicit language of the Constitution, and have yet to find expression in any decision of this Court, I feel it desirable at the outset to state the framework of Constitutional principles in which I think the issue must be judged.

In reviewing state legislation, whether considered to be in the exercise of the State's police powers, or in provision for the health, safety, morals or welfare of its people, it is clear that what is concerned are 'the powers of government inherent in every sovereignty.' The License Cases, 5 How. 504, 583, 12 L.Ed. 256. Only to the extent that the Constitution so requires may this Court interfere with the exercise of this plenary power of government. Barron for Use of Tiernan v. Mayor and City Council of City of Baltimore, 7 Pet. 243, 8 L.Ed. 672. But precisely because it is the Constitution alone which warrants judicial interference in sovereign operations of the State, the basis of judgment as to the Constitutionality of state action must be a rational one, approaching the text which is the only commission for our power not in a literalistic way, as if we had a tax statute before us, but as the basic charter of our society, setting out in spare but meaningful terms the principles of government. M'Culloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 4 L.Ed. 579. But as inescapable as is the rational process in Constitutional adjudication in general, nowhere is it more so than in giving meaning to the prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment and, where the Federal Government is involved, the Fifth Amendment, against the deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

It is but a truism to say that this provision of both Amendments is not self-explanatory. As to the Fourteenth, which is involved here, the history of the Amendment also sheds little light on the meaning of the provision. Fairman, Does the Fourteenth Amendment Incorporate the Bill of Rights, 2 Stan.L.Rev. 15. It is important to note, however, that two views of the Amendment have not been accepted by this Court as delineating its scope. One view, which was ably and insistently argued in response to what were felt to be abuses by this Court of its reviewing power, sought to limit the provision to a guarantee of procedural fairness. See Davidson v. City of New Orleans, 96 U.S. 97, 105, 24 L.Ed. 616; Brandeis, J., in Whitney v. People of State of California, 274 U.S. 357, at page 373, 47 S.Ct. 641, at page 647, 71 L.Ed. 1095; Warren, The New 'Liberty' under the 14th Amendment, 39 Harv.L.Rev. 431; Reeder, The Due Process Clauses and 'The Substance of Individual Rights,' 58 U.Pa.L.Rev. 191; Shattuck, The True Meaning of the Term 'Liberty' in Those Clauses in the Federal and State Constitutions Which Protect 'Life, Liberty, and Property,' 4 Harv.L.Rev. 365. The other view which has been rejected would have it that the Fourteenth Amendment, whether by way of the Privileges and Immunities Clause or the Due Process Clause, applied against the States only and precisely those restraints which had prior to the Amendment been applicable merely to federal action. However, 'due process' in the consistent view of this Court has even been a broader concept than the first view and more flexible than the second.

Wered ue process merely a procedural safeguard it would fail to reach those situations where the deprivation of life, liberty or property was accomplished by legislation which by operating in the future could, given even the fairest possible procedure in application to individuals, nevertheless destroy the enjoyment of all three. Compare, e.g., Selective Draft Law Cases, 245 U.S. 366, 38 S.Ct. 159, 62 L.Ed. 349; Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328, 36 S.Ct. 258, 60 L.Ed. 672; Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 65 S.Ct. 193, 89 L.Ed. 194. Thus the guaranties of due process, though having their roots in Magna Carta's 'per legem terrae' and considered as procedural safeguards 'against executive usurpation and tyranny,' have in this country 'become bulwarks also against arbitrary legislation.' Hurtado v. People of State of California, 110 U.S. 516, at page 532, 4 S.Ct. 111, at page 119, 28 L.Ed. 232.

However it is not the particular enumeration of rights in the first eight Amendments which spells out the reach of Fourteenth Amendment due process, but rather, as was suggested in another context long before the adoption of that Amendment, those concepts which are considered to embrace those rights 'which are * * * fundamental; which belong * * * to the citizens of all free governments,' Corfield v. Coryell, Fed.Cas.No.3,230, 4 Wash.C.C. 371, 380, for 'the purposes (of securing) which men enter into society,' Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388, 1 L.Ed. 648. Again and again this Court has resisted the notion that the Fourteenth Amendment is no more than a shorthand reference to what is explicitly set out elsewhere in the Bill of Rights. The Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 21 L.Ed. 394; Walker v. Sauvinet, 92 U.S. 90, 23 L.Ed. 678; Hurtado v. People of State of California, 110 U.S. 516, 4 S.Ct. 111, 28 L.Ed. 232; Presser v. State of Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615; In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436, 10 S.Ct. 930, 34 L.Ed. 519; Twining v. State of New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78, 29 S.Ct. 14, 53 L.Ed. 97; Palko v. State of Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 58 S.Ct. 149, 82 L.Ed. 288. Indeed the fact that an identical provision limiting federal action is found among the first eight Amendments, applying to the Federal Government, suggests that due process is a discrete concept which subsists as an independent guaranty of liberty and procedural fairness, more general and inclusive than the specific prohibitions. See Mormon Church v. United States, 136 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 792, 34 L.Ed. 481; Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 21 S.Ct. 770, 45 L.Ed. 1088; Territory of Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197, 23 S.Ct. 787, 47 L.Ed. 1046; Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 42 S.Ct. 343, 66 L.Ed. 627; Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284, 47 S.Ct. 406, 71 L.Ed. 646; Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 74 S.Ct. 693, 98 L.Ed. 884.

Due process has not been reduced to any formula; its content cannot be determined by reference to any code. The best that can be said is that through the course of this Court's decisions it has represented the balance which our Nation, built upon postulates of respect for the liberty of the individual, has struck between that liberty and the demands of organized society. If the supplying of content to this Constitutional concept has of necessity been a rational process, it certainly has not been one where judges have felt free to roam where unguided speculation might take them. The balance of which I speak is the balance struck by this country, having regard to what history teaches are the traditions from which it developed as well as the traditions from which it broke. That tradition is a living thing. A decision of this Court which radically departs from it could not long survive, while a decision which builds on what has survived is likely to be sound. No formula could serve as a substitute, in this area, for judgment and restraint.

It is this outlook which has led the Court continuingly to perceive distinctions in the imperative character of Constitutional prv isions, since that character must be discerned from a particular provision's larger context. And inasmuch as this context is one not of words, but of history and purposes, the full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This 'liberty' is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints, see Allgeyer v. State of Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578, 17 S.Ct. 427, 41 L.Ed. 832; Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366, 18 S.Ct. 383, 42 L.Ed. 780; Booth v. People of State of Illinois, 184 U.S. 425, 22 S.Ct. 425, 46 L.Ed. 623; Nebbia v. People of State of New York, 291 U.S. 502, 54 S.Ct. 505, 78 L.Ed. 940; Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 544, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 1114, 86 L.Ed. 1655 (concurring opinion); Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners, 353 U.S. 232, 77 S.Ct. 752, 1 L.Ed.2d 796, and which also recognizes, what a reasonable and sensitive judgment must, that certain interests require particularly careful scrutiny of the state needs asserted to justify their abridgment. Cf. Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, supra; Bolling v. Sharpe, supra.

As was said in Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399, 43 S.Ct. 625, 626, 67 L.Ed. 1042, 'this court has not attempted to define with exactness the liberty thus guaranteed * * *. Without doubt, it denotes, not merely freedom from bodily restraint * * *.' Thus, for instance, when in that case and in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070, the Court struck down laws which sought not to require what children must learn in schools, but to prescribe, in the first case, what they must not learn, and in the second, where they must acquire their learning, I do not think it was wrong to put those decisions on 'the right of the individual to * * * establish a home and bring up children,' Meyer v. State of Nebraska, ibid., or on the basis that 'The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only,' Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. at page 535, 45 S.Ct. at page 573. I consider this so, even though today those decisions would probably have gone by reference to the concepts of freedom of expression and conscience assured against state action by the Fourteenth Amendment, concepts that are derived from the explicit guarantees of the First Amendment against federal encroachment upon freedom of speech and belief. See West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 and 656, 63 S.Ct. 1178 and 1193, 87 L.Ed. 1628 (dissenting opinion); Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166, 64 S.Ct. 438, 442, 88 L.Ed. 645. For it is the purposes of those guarantees and not their text, the reasons for their statement by the Framers and not the statement itself, see Palko v. State of Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 324-327, 58 S.Ct. 149, 151 153, 82 L.Ed. 288; United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152-153, 58 S.Ct. 778, 783-784, 82 L.Ed. 1234, which have led to their present status in the compendious notion of 'liberty' embraced in the Fourteenth Amendment.

Each new claim to Constitutional protection must be considered against a background of Constitutional purposes, as they have been rationally perceived and historically developed. Though we exercise limited and sharply restrained judgment, yet there is no 'mechanical yard-stick,' no 'mechanical answer.' The decision of an apparently novel claim must depend on grounds which follow closely on well-accepted principles and criteria. The new decision must take 'its place in relation to what went before and further (cut) a channel for what is to come.' Irvine v. People of State of California, 347 U.S. 128, 147, 74 S.Ct. 381, 391, 98 L.Ed. 561 (dissenting opinion). The matter was well put in Rochin v. People of State of California, 342 U.S. 165, 170-171, 72 S.Ct. 205, 208, 96 L.Ed. 183:

'The vague contours of the Due Process Clause do not leave judges at large. We may not draw on our merely personal and private notions and disregard the limits that bind judges in their judicial function. Even though the concept of due process of law is not final and fixed, these limits are derived from considerations that are fused in the whole nature of our judicial process. * * * These are considerations deeply rooted in reason and in the compelling traditions of the legal profession.'

On these premises I turn to the particular Constitutional claim in this case.

Appellants contend that the Connecticut statute deprives them, as it unquestionably does, of a substantial measure of liberty in carrying on the most intimate of all personal relationships, and that it does so arbitrarily and without any rational, justifying purpose. The State, on the other hand, asserts that it is acting to protect the moral welfare of its citizenry, both directly, in that it considers the practice of contraception immoral in itself, and instrumentally, in that the availability of contraceptive materials tends to minimize 'the disastrous consequence of dissolute action,' that is fornication and adultery.

It is argued by appellants that the judgment, implicit in this statute-that the use of contraceptives by married couples is immoral-is an irrational one, that in effect it subjects them in a very important matter to the arbitrary whim of the legislature, and that it does so for no good purpose. Where, as here, we are dealing with what must be considered 'a basic liberty,' cf. Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, supra, 316 U.S. at page 541, 62 S.Ct. at page 1113, 'There are limits to the extent to which the presumption of constitutionality can be pressed,' id., 316 U.S. at page 544, 62 S.Ct. at page 1115, (concurring opinion), and the mere assertion that the action of the State finds justification in the controversial realm of morals cannot justify alone any and every restriction it imposes. See Alberts v. State of California, 354 U.S. 476, 77 S.Ct. 1304, 1 L.Ed.2d 1498.

Yet the very inclusion of the category of morality among state concerns indicates that society is not limited in its objects only to the physical well-being of the community, but has traditionally concerned itself with the moral soundness of its people as well. Indeed to attempt a line between public behavior and that which is purely consensual or solitary would be to withdraw from community concern a range of subjects with which every society in civilized times has found it necessary to deal. The laws regarding marriage which provide both when the sexual powers may be used and the legal and societal context in which children are born and brought up, as well as laws forbidding adultery, fornication and homosexual practices which express the negative of the proposition, confining sexuality to lawful marriage, form a pattern so deeply pressed into the substance of our social life that any Constitutional doctrine in this area must build upon that basis. Compare McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 1153, 1218.

It is in this area of sexual morality, which contains many proscriptions of consensual behavior having little or no direct impact on others, that the State of Connecticut has expressed its moral judgment that all use of contraceptives is improper. Appellants cite an impressive list of authorities who, from a great variety of points of view, commend the considered use of contraceptives by married couples. What they do not emphasize is that not too long ago the current of opinion was very probably quite the opposite, [12] and that even today the issue is not free of controversy. Certainly, Connecticut's judgment is no more demonstrably correct or incorrect than are the varieties of judgment, expressed in law, on marriage and divorce, on adult consensual homosexuality, abortion, and sterilization, or euthanasia and suicide. If we had a case before us which required us to decide simply, and in abstraction, whether the moral judgment implicit in the application of the present statute to married couples was a sound one, the very controversial nature of these questions would, I think, require us to hesitate long before concluding that the Constitution precluded Connecticut from choosing as it has among these various views. Cf. Alberts v. State of California, 354 U.S. 476, 500-503, 77 S.Ct. 1304, 1317-1319, 1 L.Ed.2d 1498 (concurring opinion).

But, as might be expected, we are not presented simply with this moral judgment to be passed on as an abstract proposition. The secular state is not an examiner of consciences: it must operate in the realm of behavior, of overt actions, and where it does so operate, not only the underlying, moral purpose of its operations, but also the choice of means becomes relevant to any Constitutional judgment on what is done. The moral presupposition on which appellants ask us to pass judgment could form the basis of a variety of legal rules and administrative choices, each presenting a different issue for adjudication. For example, one practical expression of the moral view propounded here might be the rule that a marriage in which only contraceptive relations had taken place had never been consummated and could be annulled. Compare, e.g., 2 Bouscaren, Canon Law Digest, 307-313. Again, the use of contraceptives might be made a ground for divorce, or perhaps tax benefits and subsidies could be provided for large families. Other examples also readily suggest themselves.

Precisely what is involved here is this: the State is asserting the right to enforce its moral judgment by intruding upon the most intimate details of the marital relation with the full power of the criminal law. Potentially, this could allow the deployment of all the incidental machinery of the criminal law, arrests, searches and seizures; inevitably, it must mean at the very least the lodging of criminal charges, a public trial, and testimony as to the corpus delicti. Nor could any imaginable elaboration of presumptions, testimonial privileges, or other safeguards, alleviate the necessity for testimony as to the mode and manner of the married couples' sexual relations, or at least the opportunity for the accused to make denial of the h arges. In sum, the statute allows the State to enquire into, prove and punish married people for the private use of their marital intimacy.

This, then, is the precise character of the enactment whose Constitutional measure we must take. The statute must pass a more rigorous Constitutional test than that going merely to the plausibility of its underlying rationale. See 367 U.S. at pages 542-545, 81 S.Ct. at pages 1776-1778, supra. This enactment involves what, by common understanding throughout the Engligh-speaking world, must be granted to be a most fundamental aspect of 'liberty,' the privacy of the home in its most basic sense, and it is this which requires that the statute be subjected to 'strict scrutiny.' Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, supra, 316 U.S. at page 541, 62 S.Ct. at page 1113.

That aspect of liberty which embraces the concept of the privacy of the home receives explicit Constitutional protection at two places only. These are the Third Amendment, relating to the quartering of soldiers, [13] and the Fourth Amendment, prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures. [14] While these Amendments reach only the Federal Government, this Court has held in the strongest terms, and today again confirms, that the concept of 'privacy' embodied in the Fourth Amendment is part of the 'ordered liberty' assured against state action by the Fourteenth Amendment. See Wolf v. People of State of Colorado, 338 U.S. 25, 69 S.Ct. 1359, 93 L.Ed. 1782; Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684.

It is clear, of course, that this Connecticut statute does not invade the privacy of the home in the usual sense, since the invasion involved here may, and doubtless usually would, be accomplished without any physical intrusion whatever into the home. What the statute undertakes to do, however, is to create a crime which is grossly offensive to this privacy, while the Constitution refers only to methods of ferreting out substantive wrongs, and the procedure it requires presupposes that substantive offenses may be committed and sought out in the privacy of the home. But such an analysis forecloses any claim to Constitutional protection against this form of deprivation of privacy, only if due process in this respect is limited to what is explicitly provided in the Constitution, divorced from the rational purposes, historical roots, and subsequent developments of the relevant provisions.

Perhaps the most comprehensive statement of the principle of liberty underlying these aspects of the Constitution was given by Mr. Justice Brandeis, dissenting in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, at page 478, 48 S.Ct. 564, at page 572, 72 L.Ed. 944:

'The protection guaranteed by the (Fourth and Fifth) Amendments is much broader in scope. The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man's spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone-the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violationo f the Fourth Amendment. * * *'

I think the sweep of the Court's decisions, under both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, amply shows that the Constitution protects the privacy of the home against all unreasonable intrusion of whatever character. '(These) principles * * * affect the very essence of constitutional liberty and security. They reach farther than (a) concrete form of the case * * * before the court, with its adventitious circumstances; they apply to all invasions on the part of the government and its employe § of the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life. * * *' Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 630, 6 S.Ct. 524, 532, 29 L.Ed. 746. 'The security of one's privacy against arbitrary intrusion by the police-which is at the core of the Fourth Amendment-is basic to a free society.' Wolf v. People of State of Colorado, supra, 338 U.S. at page 27, 69 S.Ct. at page 1361. In addition, see, e.g., Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 58i, 587, 66 S.Ct. 1256, 1258, 90 L.Ed. 1453; Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 202-203, 66 S.Ct. 494, 502, 90 L.Ed. 614; Frank v. State of Maryland, 359 U.S. 360, 365-366, 79 S.Ct. 804, 808-809, 3 L.Ed.2d 877; Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511, 81 S.Ct. 679, 682, 5 L.Ed.2d 734.

It would surely be an extreme instance of sacrificing substance to form were it to be held that the Constitutional principle of privacy against arbitrary official intrusion comprehends only physical invasions by the police. To be sure, the times presented the Framers with two particular threats to that principle, the general warrant, see Boyd v. United States, supra, and the quartering of soldiers in private homes. But though 'Legislation, both statutory and constitutional, is enacted, * * * from an experience of evils * * * its general language should not, therefore, be necessarily confined to the form that evil had theretofore taken. * * * (A) principle, to be vital, must be capable of wider application than the mischief which gave it birth.' Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 373, 30 S.Ct. 544, 551, 54 L.Ed. 793.

Although the form of intrusion here-the enactment of a substantive offense-does not, in my opinion, preclude the making of a claim based on the right of privacy embraced in the 'liberty' of the Due Process Clause, it must be acknowledged that there is another sense in which it could be argued that this intrusion on privacy differs from what the Fourth Amendment, and the similar concept of the Fourteenth, were intended to protect: here we have not an intrusion into the home so much as on the life which characteristically has its place in the home. But to my mind such a distinction is so insubstantial as to be captious: if the physical curtilage of the home is protected, it is surely as a result of solicitude to protect the privacies of the life within. Certainly the safeguarding of the home does not follow merely from the sanctity of property rights. The home derives its pre-eminence as the seat of family life. And the integrity of that life is something so fundamental that it has been found to draw to its protection the principles of more than one explicitly granted Constitutional right. Thus, Mr. Justice Brandeis, writing of a statute which made 'it punishable to teach (pacifism) in any place (to) a single person * * * no matter what the relation of the parties may be,' found such a 'statute invades the privacy and freedom of the home. Father and mother may not follow the promptings of religious belief, of conscience or of conviction, and teach son or daughter the doctrine of pacifism. If they do, any police officer may summarily arrest them.' Gilbert v. State of Minnesota, 254 U.S. 325, 335-336, 41 S.Ct. 125, 128, 65 L.Ed. 287 (dissenting opinion). This same principle is expressed in the Pierce and Meyer cases, supra. These decisions, as was said in Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, at page 166, 64 S.Ct. 438, at page 442, 88 L.Ed. 645, 'have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.'

Of this whole 'private realm of family life' it is difficult to imagine what is more private or more intimate than a husband and wife's marital relations. We would indeed be straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel were we to show concern for the niceties of property law involved in our recent decision, under the Fourth Amendment, in Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 81 S.Ct. 776, 5 L.Ed.2d 828, and yet fail at least to see any substantial claim here.

Of course, just as the requirement of a warrant is not inflexible in carrying out searches and seizures, see Abel v. United States, 362 U.S. 217, 80 S.Ct. 683, 4 L.Ed.2d 668; United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 70 S.Ct. 430, 94 L.Ed. 653, so there are countervailing considerations at this more fundamental aspect of the right involved. '(T)he family * * * is not beyond regulation,' Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, supra, and it would be an absurdity to suggest either that offenses may not be committed in the bosom of the family or that the home can be made a sanctuary for crime. The right of privacy most manifestly is not an absolute. Thus, I would not suggest that adultery, homosexuality, fornication and incest are immune from criminal enquiry, however privately practiced. So much has been explicitly recognized in acknowledging the State's rightful concern for its people's moral welfare. See 367 U.S. at pages 545-548, 81 S.Ct. at pages 1778-1780, supra. But not to discriminate between what is involved in this case and either the traditional offenses against good morals or crimes which, though they may be committed anywhere, happen to have been committed or concealed in the home, would entirely misconceive the argument that is being made.

Adultery, homosexuality and the like are sexual intimacies which the State forbids altogether, but the intimacy of husband and wife is necessarily an essential and accepted feature of the institution of marriage, an institution which the State not only must allow, but which always and in every age it has fostered and protected. It is one thing when the State exerts its power either to forbid extra-marital sexuality altogether, or to say who may marry, but it is quite another when, having acknowledged a marriage and the intimacies inherent in it, it undertakes to regulate by means of the criminal law the details of that intimacy.

In sum, even though the State has determined that the use of contraceptives is as iniquitous as any act of extra-marital sexual immorality, the intrusion of the whole machinery of the criminal law into the very heart of marital privacy, requiring husband and wife to render account before a criminal tribunal of their uses of that intimacy, is surely a very different thing indeed from punishing those who establish intimacies which the law has always forbidden and which can have no claim to social protection.

In my view the appellants have presented a very pressing claim for Constitutional protection. Such difficulty as the claim presents lies only in evaluating it against the State's countervailing contention that it be allowed to enforce, by whatever means it deems appropriate, its judgment of the immorality of the practice this law condemns. In resolving this conflict a number of factors compel me to conclude that the decision here must most emphatically be for the appellants. Since, as it appears to me, the statute marks an abridgment of important fundamental liberties protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, it will not do to urge in justification of that abridgment simply that the statute is rationally related to the effectuation of a proper state purpose. A closer scrutiny and stronger justification than that are required. See 367 U.S. at pages 542-545, 81 S.Ct. at pages 1776-1778, supra.

Though the State has argued the Constitutional permissibility of the moral judgment underlying this statute, neither its brief, nor its argument, nor anything in n y of the opinions of its highest court in these or other cases even remotely suggests a justification for the obnoxiously intrusive means it has chosen to effectuate that policy. To me the very circumstance that Connecticut has not chosen to press the enforcement of this statute against individual users, while it nevertheless persists in asserting its right to do so at any time-in effect a right to hold this statute as an imminent threat to the privacy of the households of the State-conduces to the inference either that it does not consider the policy of the statute a very important one, or that it does not regard the means it has chosen for its effectuation as appropriate or necessary.

But conclusive, in my view, is the utter novelty of this enactment. Although the Federal Government and many States have at one time or other had on their books statutes forbidding or regulating the distribution of contraceptives, none, so far as I can find, has made the use of contraceptives a crime. [15] Indeed, a diligent search has revealed that no nation, including several which quite evidently share Connecticut's moral policy, [16] has seen fit to effectuate that policy by the means presented here.

Though undoubtedly the States are and should be left free to reflect a wide variety of policies, and should be allowed broad scope in experimenting with various means of promoting those policies, I must agree with Mr. Justice Jackson that 'There are limits to the extent to which a legislatively represented majority may conduct * * * experiments at the expense of the dignity and personality' of the individual. Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, supra (316 U.S. 535, 62 S.Ct. 1116). In this instance these limits are, in my view, reached and passed.

I would adjudicate these appeals and hold this statute unconstitutional, insofar as it purports to make criminal the conduct contemplated by these married women. It follows that if their conduct cannot be a crime, appellant Buxton cannot be an accomplice thereto. I would reverse the judgment in each of these cases.


  1. These statutes, Conn.Gen.Stat.Rev.1958, § 53-32 (forbidding the use of contraceptives), and Conn.Gen.Stat.Rev.1958, § 54-196 (the general accessory law), are set forth in note 2 of the plurality opinion, ante, 367 U.S. at page 499, 81 S.Ct. at page 1753.
  2. Only two cases are squarely relied on, C.I.O. v. McAdory, 325 U.S. 472, 65 S.Ct. 1395, 89 L.Ed. 1741, a companion case to Alabama State Federation of Labor, etc. v. McAdory, supra, discussed at pages 526-527 of 367 U.S., at page 1768 of 81 S.Ct., infra, and tendering the same issues; and Ex parte La Prade, 289 U.S. 444, 53 S.Ct. 682, 77 L.Ed. 1311. The appeal in the principal McAdory case was dismissed because the state statute there challenged had not yet been construed by the state courts, and it was thought that state construction might remove some Constitutional doubts. In the companion McAdory case, the appeal was likewise dismissed, the State having 'agreed not to enforce § 7 of the Act (there challenged) until the final decision as to the section's validity by this Court in Alabama State Federation of Labor v. McAdory * * *.' Id., 325 U.S. at page 475, 65 S.Ct. at page 1397. In the present appeals there is no agreement not to prosecute, no companion case awaiting disposition, and no uncertainty about state law due to lack of state construction.
  3. Manifestly the type of ripeness found wanting in cases such as Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078; State of Texas v. Interstate Commerce Comm., 258 U.S. 158, 42 S.Ct. 261, 66 L.Ed. 531; State of New Jersey v. Sargent, 269 U.S. 328, 46 S.Ct. 122, 70 L.Ed. 289, and State of Arizona v. State of California, 283 U.S. 423, 51 S.Ct. 522, 75 L.Ed. 1154, is not lacking in the cases before us. For the recurrent theme of those cases, all of which challenge federal action as an encroachment on state sovereignty, is the fact that the mere existence of state sovereign powers and prerogatives which may bear generally upon individual rights raises no such concrete and practical issues as courts are accustomed to consider, so that adjudication upon their validity in such circumstances would take place in the most abstract kind of setting.
  4. Some support is sought to be drawn for the supposition of state acquiescence in violation of the statute from the case of State v. Certain Contraceptive Materials, 126 Conn. 428, 11 A.2d 863. But that case held no more than that contraceptive materials could not be seized under the authority of a statute interpreted to deal with the seizure of gambling paraphernalia.
  5. The 'circumstances' of the Nelson case may best be gathered from the remarks of the State's prosecuting attorney, Mr. Fitzgerald, seeking the approval of the trial judge for a nolle prosequi in that case after the decision of the State Supreme Court. In an affidavit accompanying a transcript of the proceedings on the State's motion, the attorney for the defendants stated that 'said criminal prosecutions were prosecutions instituted by the State upon complaint of a citizen and were instituted in no sense with the prior knowledge or approval of the accused and there was no pre-trial acquiescence by the accused that said actions would be instituted to test the constitutionality of the statutes in question.'
  6. This statement was made in the same proceedings referred to in note 5, supra.
  7. See Brief of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., as amicus curiae, p. 4, and Appendix f.
  8. The concurring opinion concludes, apparently on the basis of the Nelson episode, that the 'true controversy in this case is over the opening of birth-control clinics on a large scale * * *.' It should be said at once that as to these appeals this is an entirely unwarranted assumption. The amicus curiae in this case, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., is indeed interested in such clinics, see note 7, supra, but as to the actual parties here, there is not one word in the record or their briefs to suggest that their interest is anything other than they say it is. The Nelson prosecution, it is true, involved a doctor and nurses at a birth-control clinic, but there is nothing about these statutes as they have been authoritatively construed in this and previous cases, that limits their application to advice given by a doctor in a clinic of that sort, as opposed to advice given by a doctor in some less specialized clinic, a hospital or in his own office.
  9. In this regard it is worth comparing the record of the Federal Communications Commission in enforcing its regulations by means of a threat of revocation of station licenses. The Commission has not, as is generally known, used this sanction much more readily than Connecticut has invoked criminal penalties to enforce the laws here in question, but no one would discount entirely the efficacy of the threat or suggest that open defiance of Commission regulations is without substantial risks.
  10. It is suggested that prosecution is unlikely because of an interspousal testimonial privilege in Connecticut. Assuming that such a privilege exists and is applicable here, the testimony of either spouse is not necessary to a conviction. Furthermore, as will be argued, the rea incursion here inheres in the institution of a prosecution in this matter at all, with the consequent need of an opportunity for the parties-guilty or innocent-to defend themselves against the charges. See 367 U.S. at page 548, 81 S.Ct. at page 1779, infra.
  11. There is a much discredited dictum in Ex parte La Prade, 289 U.S. 444, 53 S.Ct. 682, 77 L.Ed. 1311, that in an injunction action there must be an allegation of threatened immediate enforcement of the statute. See 50 Yale L.J. 1278; Borchard, Challenging 'Penal' Statutes by Declaratory Action, 52 Yale L.J. 445; 62 Harv.L.Rev. 870-871. But against this dictum (which even in its context was justified only as a natural consequence of the rule of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714, involving suits against state officers) one can array numerous cases in which proof of any such immediate threat was considered unnecessary and the Court proceeded to a determination of the merits. See, e.g., Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. State of West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553, 43 S.Ct. 658, 67 L.Ed. 1117; Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303; Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238, 56 S.Ct. 855, 80 L.Ed. 1160; Currin v. Wallace, 30 U.S. 1, 59 S.Ct. 379, 83 L.Ed. 441.
  12. The so-called Comstock Law, 17 Stat. 598, may be regarded as characteristic of the attitude of a large segment of public opinion on this matter through the end of the last century. It was only by judicial interpretation at a later date that the absolute prohibitions of the law were qualified to exclude professional medical use. Youngs Rubber Corp. v. C. I. Lee & Co., 2 Cir., 45 F.2d 103; Davis v. United States, 6 Cir., 62 F.2d 473; United States v. One Package, 2 Cir., 86 F.2d 737; 50 Harv.L.Rev. 1312. However, the Comstock Law in its original form 'started a fashion' and many States enacted similar legislation, some of which is still on the books. See Stone and Pilpel, The Social and Legal Status of Contraception, 22 N.C.L.Rev. 212; Legislation Note, 45 Harv.L.Rev. 723; Note, 6 U. of Chi.L.Rev. 260; Murray, America's Four Conspiracies, at 32-33, in Religion in America (Cogley ed.). Indeed the criticism of these measures assume that they represented general public opinion, though of a bygone day. See, e.g., Knopf, Various Aspects of Birth Control; Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, Laws Relating to Birth Control in the United States and its Territories, foreword and introduction; Stone and Pilpel, supra; Hearings on H.R. 11082, 72d Cong., 1st Sess. See generally, Broun and Leech, Anthony Comstock; Dennett, Birth Control Laws.
  13. 'No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.'
  14. 'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'
  15. See tabulation of statutes in Birth Control Legislation, 9 Cleveland-Marshall Law Review, 245 (1960); Legislation Note, 45 Harv.L.Rev. 723 (1932); Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, Laws Relating to Birth Control in the United States and its Territories (1938).
  16. Unqualified disapproval of contraception is implicit in the laws of Belgium, Droit Penal, § 383; France, Code Penal, Art. 317; Ireland, Censorship of Publications Act of 1929, §§ 16, 17, Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1935, § 17; Italy, Codice Penale, Arts. 553, 555; and Spain, Codigo Penal, Art. 416. Compare the more permissive legislation in Canada, Criminal Code, § 150; Germany, Strafgesetzbuch, § 184; Switzerland, Code Penal, Art. 211.

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