Speiser v. Randall - Significance
Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Speiser v. Randall - Significance, Punishing Subversive Ideas, The Burden Of Proof, Justice Clark's Dissent, Impact
The ruling confirmed the types of speech protected under the First Amendment, and found that statutory provisions that force an individual to prove he is not engaged in criminal activities violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
After World War II, the spread of Communism in Eastern Europe and Asia influenced both foreign and domestic policy in the United States. Measures to defend the country against the influence of communist agitators led to intense conflicts in the area of free speech and association. Communist Party members were prosecuted under the Smith Act (the Alien Registration Act of 1940), which made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the government or to belong to any organization that held such beliefs. Loyalty oaths were required of many job applicants, and persons who belonged to the Communist Party or other groups considered subversive were often fired. Such activities, defendants argued, were unconstitutional because they violated the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. As Congress and the states passed anti-subversive legislation, the courts engaged in complex deliberations over the limits and protections of free speech.