DeJonge v. Oregon


Significance: The Supreme Court, in overturning a conviction under a state criminal syndicalism law, incorporated the right of freedom of peaceable assembly and association to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote the Supreme Court's unanimous opinion (Justice Harlan Fiske Stone did not participate) overturning the conviction of Dirk DeJonge under Oregon's criminal syndicalism law. DeJonge had helped run a meeting sponsored by the Communist Party to protest actions taken by police against workers. Although DeJonge, some of the other leaders, and about 15 percent of attendees were affiliated with communists, the meeting was entirely orderly. Minor Communist Party activities may have taken place, but no one advocated violence or criminal syndicalism. The prosecution relied heavily on party literature not used in the meeting but found elsewhere that tangentially associated the Communist Party with syndicalism. The Oregon supreme court upheld DeJonge's conviction on grounds that merely participating in a totally peaceful meeting called by the Communist Party could still violate the law. The Court reversed the decision, saying lawful discussion in a peaceful assembly is not a crime. This decision first applied the freedom of association to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause.