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The Supreme Court and McCarthy-Era RepressionOne Hundred Decisions$
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Robert M. Lichtman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037009

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037009.001.0001

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The Justices of the Vinson Court, Douds, and the Start of the Court’s McCarthy Era

The Justices of the Vinson Court, Douds, and the Start of the Court’s McCarthy Era

(October Term 1949)

(p.24) 2 The Justices of the Vinson Court, Douds, and the Start of the Court’s McCarthy Era
The Supreme Court and McCarthy-Era Repression

Robert M. Lichtman

University of Illinois Press

This chapter discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions during its October 1949 term. The Court convened for its new term on Monday, October 3, 1949. The beginnings of what would soon be a heavy flow of “Communist” cases either awaited action by the Court or was in the pipeline. Douds was the term’s most important decision. Section 9(h) of the Taft–Hartley Act, assertedly aimed at preventing “political strikes” by Communist-dominated unions, made it next to impossible for American Communist Party (CPUSA) members to hold union office. A six-justice Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, upheld this provision against a claim that it infringed the First Amendment rights of union officers. The Court found that Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce authorized it to prevent “political strikes” and that it “could rationally find” that the CPUSA, unlike other political parties, used union leadership positions to obstruct commerce for “political advantage.”

Keywords:   Taft–Hartley Act, non-Communist affidavit, U.S. Supreme Court, McCarthy era, Fred M. Vinson, union officers, First Amendment rights, American Community Party

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