Yates Vs. United States was arguing the arrest and conviction of 14 members of the Communist Party of California. They were arrested for violating the Smith Act. The Smith Act made it a crime to advocate or teach the duty, necessity, or propriety of overthrowing the government by force or violence. It was originally intended to stop a fascist overthrow of the United States government. After World War II, it was used several times against communist and socialist groups in the United States. This would remove the political opposition for the mainstream America that was pro democracy and capitalist. Yates Vs. United was not the first case to contest this law. It was also fought against during the Dennis Vs. United States case, which was also against the Communist Party of America. The Smith Act was withheld in that ruling. Those that brought the case to the Supreme Court argued that they were protected by the first amendment. The specific part of the amendment they said protected them was the right to free speech and the right to assembly. The Petitioners argued that the Smith Act didn’t prohibit the advocacy and teaching of a government overthrow, but only prohibited the actual action or initiation of one. This could have gone either way. The big reason it could go against the Communist Party is because of the ruling in Dennis Vs. United States. That case argued that the Smith Act violated the first amendment rights of an American. It also argued that advocacy of an overthrow was not just the teaching, but the attempt or action of trying to incite one. In a sense, it is practically the same exact case as Yates Vs. United States, just 7 years earlier. The only reason it would get a different verdict is because different justices had been appointed, which would interpret the constitution differently than others and have other opinions. The best case for Yates was the interpretation of the word “advocacy”, which changes the meaning of the Smith Act. Yates felt it should be interpreted as solely an action, not the teaching or thought of an action.
Yates Vs. United States was brought to the United States Supreme Court in 1956. It was argued October 8th and 9th, 1956 and decided June 17th, 1957. The ruling of the case was in favor of Yates in a 6-1-majority vote. The chief justice of the time, who was Earl Warren, voted in favor of the majority. Hugo L. Black wrote a concurrence, which is an agreement and reasoning with a vote. Felix Frankfurter voted with the majority, William O. Douglas joined Black’s concurrence and voted for the majority. Harold Burton also wrote a concurrence. John M. Harlan was the last person to vote in favor of the majority. The only justice to vote against majority was Tom C. Clark. The remaining 2 justices William J. Brennan Jr. and Charles E. Whittaker did not participate in the voting or consideration of the case. Hugo Black’s concurrence stated that dictators had stamped out political opponents and parties many time in the past. He felt that our government committing the same action was the opposite of what our constitution stood for. He also stated that the first amendment made the best type of security for our government. That was one that leaves the way wide open for people to favor, discuss, advocate, or incite causes and doctrines however obnoxious and antagonistic such views may be to the rest of us. The final thing he said is our founding fathers and those that created the constitution believed it should be upheld, so we shall do the same. Earl Warren’s statement focused on the definition of the word advocacy. He said that the district court that tried the 14 people failed to distinguish between advocacy of overthrow as a crazy doctrine or option and advocacy of the action of doing so. Tom C. Clark’s reason for dissent or voting against majority was the prior stated reason of Dennis vs United States. He said that the petitioners were part of the