Dennis V. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951)

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Facts: The petitioners, the leaders of the Communist Political Association (CPA), reorganized the Association into the Communist Party through changing its policies of peaceful cooperation with the United States and its economic and political structure to into the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the Communist Party. The Communist Party set itself apart from other political parties by disregarding the normal process of change set forth by the constitution. From the literature, statements, and activities of the petitioners, the Communist Party leaders, it is clear that their goal was to achieve a successful overthrow of the government of the United States through the use of force and violence.

Procedural History: Petitioners, leaders of the Communist Party, were convicted of violation of sec. 2 and 3 of the Smith Act due to the fact that the pretrial motion to stop the indictment on the grounds that the statute was unconstitutional was denied. The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, and the defendants once again appeal the verdict. A writ of limited certiorari was granted by the Supreme Court.

1.)Are sec. 2 and 3 of the Smith Act violates the First Amendment and other provisions of the Bill of Rights? 2.)Are the rights to advocate the overthrow of the government protected by the First and Fifth Amendments?

Holdings: The convictions are affirmed because the court ruled that the Smith Act was constitutional and that the governments' right to self-preservation at times overrules the rights granted by the Bill of Rights.

Analysis of Majority Opinion: Shenck vs. United States 249 U.S. 47 (1919) created the precedent allowing for the right of freedom of speech to be violated when there is a "clear and present danger" to the government. The petitioners clearly intended to overthrow the government because they advocated this action. This is important because it passes one of the major tests of justice in America, intent. It is understandable for...
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