United States v. Classic
|United States v. Classic|
Supreme Court of the United States
|Argued April 7, 1941
Decided May 26, 1941
|Full case name||United States v. Classic, et al.|
|Citations||313 U.S. 299 (more)
61 S. Ct. 1031; 85 L. Ed. 1368; 1941 U.S. LEXIS 601
|Prior history||On appeal from the District Court of the U.S. for the Eastern District of Louisiana|
|U.S. Const. art. 1, Sec. 4 empowers Congress to protect rights of electors in state primary elections; upheld Federal Corrupt Practices Act|
|Majority||Stone, joined by Frankfurter, Reed, Roberts; Hughes took no part|
|Dissent||Douglas, joined by Black, Murphy|
|U.S. Const. Art. I, Sec. 2; U.S. Const. Art. I, Sec. 4; 18 U.S.C.S. Sec. 51|
United States v. Classic 313 U.S. 299 (1941) was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that the United States Constitution empowered Congress to regulate primary elections and political party nominations procedures—but only in cases where state law made primaries and nominations part of the election and/or whenever the primary effectively determined the outcome of the election.
Many observers assumed that the court had already ruled in Newberry v. U.S., 256 U.S. 232 (1921), that primary elections could not be regulated under the powers granted to Congress under Article I, Sec. 4 of the Constitution. But writing for the majority, Justice Harlan Fiske Stone argued that the Newberry court had been deeply divided on the issue and no majority had ruled one way or the other. Utilizing the reasoning by Chief Justice Edward Douglass White and Justice Mahlon Pitney in their concurrent opinions in Newberry, Stone argued that the Constitution's protection of the right to vote cannot be effectively exercised without reaching to primary elections and/or political party nominating procedures.
In a "diffident" dissent, Justice William O. Douglas agreed that the Constitution gives the Congress the right to regulate primaries, but concluded that the U.S. criminal code did not explicitly outlaw the actions in question. "It is not enough for us to find in the vague penumbra of a statute some offense about which Congress could have legislated, and then to particularize it as a crime because it is highly offensive," Douglas wrote. "Sec. 19 does not purport to be an exercise by Congress of its power to regulate primaries."
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