The Hughes Court (1930–41)

First Amendment

In what case did the Hughes Court protect the freedom of assembly of a communist?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously 8–0 (Justice Harlan Fiske Stone did not participate) in De Jonge v. Oregon (1937) that “peaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime.” The case involved Oregon-based communist Dirk De Jonge, who was sentenced to seven years for participating in a Communist Party meeting. There was no evidence of any violence or rebellion at the meeting, only lawful political discussions. The Court concluded that the “holding of meetings for peaceable political action cannot be subscribed.” The case is also important because for the first time the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that the First Amendment freedom of assembly is extended to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.


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