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Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization


Hague marked the first time that the First Amendment was used to prevent government suppression of expressive activity. It served to open public areas like parks and streets to free discussion.

In the 1930s, Jersey City, New Jersey, passed a city ordinance requiring groups advocating civil disobedience or overthrow of the government to obtain a permit from the chief of police before they could publicly meet or distribute literature in public places. In 1937, when representatives from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (the CIO) arrived in Jersey City to urge workers to exercise their right to organize--newly granted by the National Labor Relations Act (1935)--the ordinance was used as an excuse to arrest the labor leaders and run them out of town. Various groups representing organized labor were also repeatedly denied permits to hold meetings or hand out printed information on grounds that their members were Communists.

Then, with the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), these groups, collectively called the Committee for Industrial Organization, sued Mayor Frank Hague and other Jersey City officials in federal district court. Alleging that their First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly had been violated, the groups won an injunction preventing enforcement of the ordinances. After the injunction was upheld by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Hague and other Jersey City executives petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review of this finding.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization - Significance, Justices Uphold A Right Of Access To Public Places