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In an action brought by respondents against petitioners to recover damages under 8 U. S. C. § 47 (3), the District Court dismissed the complaint. 80 F. Supp. 501. The Court of Appeals reversed. 183 F. 2d 308. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U. S. 809. Reversed, p. 663.

Aubrey N. Irwin argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioners.

A. L. Wirin and Loren Miller argued the cause for respondents. With Mr. Wirin on the brief were Fred Okrand, William Egan Colby, Edward J. Ennis, Osmond K. Fraenkel, Will Maslow, Joseph B. Robison and Clore Warne.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by Arthur J. Goldberg and Thomas E. Harris for the Congress of Industrial Organizations; and Loren Miller and Thurgood Marshall for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

This controversy arises under 8 U. S. C. § 47 (3), which provides civil remedies for certain conspiracies.1 A motion to dismiss the amended complaint raises the issue of its sufficiency and, of course, requires us to accept its well-pleaded facts as the hypothesis for decision.

1 17 Stat. 13, 8 U. S. C. § 47 (3) reads:

"If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire or go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; or for the purpose of preventing or hindering the constituted authorities of any State or Territory from giving or securing to all persons within such State or Territory the equal protection of the laws; or if two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any

Its essential allegations are that plaintiffs are citizens of the United States, residents of California, and members or officers of a voluntary association or political club organized for the purpose of participating in the election of officers of the United States, petitioning the national government for redress of grievances, and engaging in public meetings for the discussion of national public issues. It planned a public meeting for November 14, 1947, on the subject, "The Cominform and the Marshall Plan," at which it was intended to adopt a resolution opposing said Marshall Plan, to be forwarded, by way of a petition for the redress of grievances, to appropriate federal officials.

The conspiracy charged as being within the Act is that defendants, with knowledge of the meeting and its pur

citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for President or Vice President, or as a Member of Congress of the United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such support or advocacy; in any case of conspiracy set forth in this section, if one or more persons engaged therein do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages, occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators."

This paragraph should be read in the context of other paragraphs of the same section, and note should also be taken of 8 U. S. C. § 43, which reads:

"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress."

poses, entered into an agreement to deprive the plaintiffs, "as citizens of the United States, of privileges and immunities, as citizens of the United States, of the rights peaceably to assemble for the purpose of discussing and communicating upon national public issues . . . ." And further, "to deprive the plaintiffs as well as the members of said club, as citizens of the United States, of equal privileges and immunities under the laws of the United States. ..." This is amplified by allegations that defendants knew of many public meetings in the locality, at which resolutions were adopted by groups with whose opinions defendants agreed, and with which defendants did not interfere or conspire to interfere. "With respect to the meeting aforesaid on November 14, 1947, however, the defendants conspired to interfere with said meeting for the reason that the defendants opposed the views of the plaintiffs. . . .”

In the effort to bring the case within the statute, the pleader also alleged that defendants conspired "to go in disguise upon the highways" and that they did in fact go in disguise "consisting of the unlawful and unauthorized wearing of caps of the American Legion." The District Court disposed of this part of the complaint by holding that wearing such headgear did not constitute the disguise or concealment of identity contemplated by the Act. Plaintiffs thereupon abandoned that part of the complaint and do not here rely upon it to support their claims.

The complaint then separately sets out the overt acts of injury and damage relied upon to meet the requirements of the Act. To carry out the conspiracy, it is alleged, defendants proceeded to the meeting place and, by force and threats of force, did assault and intimidate plaintiffs and those present at the meeting and thereby broke up the meeting, thus interfering with the right of the plaintiffs to petition the Government for

redress of grievances. Both compensatory and punitive damages are demanded.

It is averred that the cause of action arises under the statute cited and under the Constitution of the United States. But apparently the draftsman was scrupulously cautious not to allege that it arose under the Fourteenth Amendment, or that defendants had conspired to deprive plaintiffs of rights secured by that Amendment, thus seeking to avoid the effect of earlier decisions of this Court in Fourteenth Amendment cases.

The complaint makes no claim that the conspiracy or the overt acts involved any action by state officials, or that defendants even pretended to act under color of state law. It is not shown that defendants had or claimed any protection or immunity from the law of the State, or that they in fact enjoyed such because of any act or omission by state authorities. Indeed, the trial court found that the acts alleged are punishable under the laws of California relating to disturbance of the peace, assault, and trespass, and are also civilly actionable."

2 The opinion of District Judge Yankwich for this cites in his notes, 80 F. Supp. 501, 510:

"39. Cal. Penal Code, Section 415 (disturbance of the peace of neighborhood or person); Section 403 (disturbance of public meetings)

"40. Cal. Penal Code, Section 602 (j) (illegal entry for the purpose of injuring property or property rights or interfering or obstructing lawful business of another).

"41. Cal. Penal Code, Sections 240, 241 (assault); sections 242, 243 (battery). Among the corresponding civil sections relating to civil remedies are California Civil Code, Section 43 (guarantee against personal bodily harm or restraint); Government Code, Section 241 (defining as citizens all persons born or residing within the state); California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 338 (3) [Section 338 (2)] (action for trespass to real property may be brought within three years); section 340 (3) (action for assault and battery may be brought within one year). And for the state civil rights provisions, see California Civil Code, Sections 51-54."

The District Judge held that the statute does not and cannot constitutionally afford redress for invasions of civil rights at the hands of individuals, but can only be applied to injuries to civil rights by persons acting pursuant to or under color of state law. In reversing the District Court's dismissal of the complaint, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held otherwise, one judge dissenting. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in Love v. Chandler, 124 F. 2d 785, has ruled in accord with the District Judge and the dissenting Court of Appeals Judge here. To resolve the conflict, we granted certiorari.

This statutory provision has long been dormant. It was introduced into the federal statutes by the Act of April 20, 1871, entitled, "An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes."" The Act was among the last of the reconstruction legislation to be based on the "conquered province" theory which prevailed in Congress for a period following the Civil War. This statute, without separability provisions, established the civil liability with which we are here concerned as well as other civil liabilities, together with parallel criminal liabilities. It also provided that unlawful combinations and conspiracies named in the Act might be deemed rebellions, and authorized the President to employ the militia to suppress them. The President was also authorized to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. It prohibited any person from being a federal grand or

$80 F. Supp. 501.

4183 F.2d 308.

5 Other recent cases involving the statute are Viles v. Symes, 129 F.2d 828; Robeson v. Fanelli, 94 F. Supp. 62; and Ferrer v. Fronton Exhibition Co., 188 F. 2d 954.

340 U. S. 809.

7 17 Stat. 13.

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