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Aptheker v. Secretary of State

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Significance: In this case, one of a series that undermined 1950's anticommunist legislation, the Supreme Court overturned the communist registration provision in the 1950 McCarran Act.


A six-vote liberal majority on the Supreme Court voided the part of the 1950 McCarran Act requiring Communist Party members to register with the Subversive Activities Control Board. This registration provision was upheld in Communist Party v. Subversive Activities Control Board (1961), but the Court said it would rule on the constitutionality of the registrations only if enforcement were attempted. The government had previously tried to block the issuance of passports to communists and other subversives under the 1926 Passport Act, but this was stricken as unconstitutional in Kent v. Dulles (1958). Writing for the Court, Justice Arthur J. Goldberg called the statute overly broad, pointing out that the right to travel outside the United States, while not absolute, was valuable and that this act banned travel for subversive organization members without regard to the purpose of their travel and whether or not they were active or knowing members of the organization.