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Scales v. United States

Significance, Supreme Court Reverses Course On Communism, The Smith Act


Junius Irving Scales


United States

Petitioner's Claim

That the membership clause of the Smith Act, which makes it a crime to belong "knowingly" to an organization advocating overthrow of the government, violates the rights of free speech and association, as well as due process.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Telford Taylor

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

John F. Davis

Justices for the Court

Tom C. Clark, Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall Harlan II (writing for the Court), Potter Stewart, Charles Evans Whittaker

Justices Dissenting

Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Earl Warren


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

5 June 1961


The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the membership clause of the Smith Act and Scales's conviction under its terms.

Related Cases

  • Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).
  • Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951).
  • Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957).
  • Noto v. United States, 367 U.S. 290 (1961).


Levy, Leonard W., ed. Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. New York: Macmillan, 1986.

Further Readings

  • Belknap, Michael R., ed. American Political Trials, rev. ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
  • ------. 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: Hill and Wang, 1982.

Additional topics

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