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GOSHORN v. BAR ASSN. OF THE DIST. OF COLUMBIA

June 7, 1957

Alfred F. GOSHORN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BAR ASSOCIATION OF the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, a corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILKIN

The Complaint seeks a declaratory judgment invalidating the action of the defendant Association at its meeting of May 8, 1956, with reference to the proposed amendment to the By-Laws of the Association by deleting the word 'white' from Article I which fixed and classified the eligibility of members, and the Complaint prayed for an injunction restraining officers of the Association from any action based on, or in furtherance of, the procedure at such meeting.

The Answer alleges that the Complaint fails to state a claim against the defendant upon which relief can be granted:

 alleges that the action taken by the Association was proper and in full conformity with its By-Laws;

 alleges that the plaintiffs have waived any objections by their failure to take proper and timely action;

 alleges that the plaintiffs have not suffered any injury to themselves entitling them to the relief asked;

 alleges that this court lacks power to interfere in the affairs of the private professional organization in the manner sought by the Complaint;

 alleges that this court cannot grant relief to the plaintiffs without denying rights protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and the public policy of the United States.

 Two judges of this court, acting separately, denied motions for summary judgment. The case then came on for trial on the merits to determine the disputed issues of fact and questions of law. The principal issue was the validity or invalidity of the declaration of the president, based on a voice vote, that the resolution for the amendment has carried by a two-thirds vote of active members present, and that the amendment was, therefore, adopted. The determination of that issue depends on the conditions and circumstances before, at the time of, and after, the voice vote. The disagreements and differences in testimony related to details of minor or secondary importance. As to the most essential facts and circumstances, there was general agreement.

 There was no dispute as to the following provisions of the By-Laws:

 'Article I

 'Membership

 'Section I. Classes. The following classes shall constitute the membership of the Association.

 'A. Active Members. All members of the Association at the date of the adoption of these By-Laws shall be classified as active members.

 'White members of the Bar of the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia, in good standing, in active practice in the District of Columbia, shall be eligible to active membership in the Association, as hereinafter provided.

 'B. Associate Members. White residents and non-residents of the District of Columbia who are members of the Bar, in good standing, of the highest Court of any State or Territory, and who are not engaged in or attempting to engage in active practice in the District of Columbia, may be admitted to associate membership, as hereinafter provided.

 'White members of the Bar of the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia, in good standing, not in active practice, may be admitted to ...


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