CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.
Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Jackson, Burton, Clark, Minton
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.*fn1 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.
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 purposes,
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 ...