NAACP v. Alabama

377 U.S. 288, 84 S. Ct. 1302 (1964)



A governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms. The power to regulate must be so exercised as not, in attaining a permissible end, unduly to infringe the protected freedom. Even though the governmental purpose be legitimate and substantial, that purpose cannot be pursued by means that broadly stifle fundamental personal liberties when the end can be more narrowly achieved. 


Petitioner civil rights organization challenged the judgment of the Supreme Court of Alabama, which affirmed a decree permanently enjoining petitioner and those affiliated with it from doing any further business of any description or kind in Alabama and from attempting to qualify to do business there. Respondent state argued that the procedural grounds relied upon by the state court were sufficient upon which to base its opinion.  On appeal, the court held that the dismissal of petitioner civil rights organization's appeal from a decree permanently enjoining it from any activity with respondent state was improper. The court reversed the judgment of the state court, declined to fashion a decree for entry in the state court, and remanded for further proceedings.



Did the ouster of a civil rights organization for failure to register in-state violate the organization's constitutional right to associate for the advocacy of ideas as being overbroad?




The court held that the rule invoked, Ala. Sup. Ct. R. 9, could not reasonably be deemed applicable to the case because the structure of petitioner's brief fully met the requirement that unrelated assignments of error not be argued together. The court ruled that the consideration of asserted constitutional rights could not be thwarted by the state court's simple recitation that there had not been observance of a procedural rule with which there had been compliance in both substance and form, in every real sense. The court found that the state court had previously held that the Rule 9 was directory only. The court ruled that there was nothing in the state's statutes dealing with foreign corporations that attached the consequence of permanent ouster to a foreign corporation which fails to register. The court noted that the state's objections to petitioner's presence in the state were based on petitioner's acts that were not illegal. 

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