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Pennsylvania v. Nelson

Significance, Cold Warriors Outraged By Court's Decision In Favor Of Communist Party Leader


Commonwealth of Pennsylvania


Steve Nelson

Petitioner's Claim

That the Pennsylvania Supreme Court erred in overturning the conviction of Nelson, a Communist Party leader, under the state's antisedition law.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Frank F. Truscott, Special Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Herbert S. Thatcher

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, Tom C. Clark, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall Harlan II, Earl Warren (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

Harold Burton, Sherman Minton, Stanley Forman Reed


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

2 April 1956


The U.S. Supreme Court found the Pennsylvania antisedition law unconstitutional and upheld the reversal of Nelson's conviction.

Related Cases

  • Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925).
  • Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927).
  • Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951).

Further Readings

  • Belknap, Michal R. Cold War Political Justice: The Smith Act, the Communist Party, and American Civil Liberties. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1977.
  • Kutler, Stanley I. The American Inquisition: Justice and Injustice in the Cold War. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1982.
  • Zimmerman, Joseph F. Federal Preemption: The Silent Revolution. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962