World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Speiser v. Randall

Speiser v. Randall
Argued April 8–9, 1958
Decided June 30, 1958
Full case name Lawrence Speiser v. Randall, Assessor of Contra Costa County, California
Citations 357 U.S. 513 (more)
Enforcement of this provision through procedures which place the burdens of proof and persuasion on the taxpayers denied them freedom of speech without the procedural safeguards required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Brennan
Warren took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513 (1958), was a U.S. Supreme Court case addressing the State of California's refusal to grant to ACLU lawyer Lawrence Speiser, a veteran of World War II, a tax exemption because that person refused to sign a loyalty oath as required by a California law enacted in 1954. The court reversed a lower court ruling that the loyalty oath provision did not violate the appellants' First Amendment rights.


  • Facts 1
  • Issue 2
  • Decision 3
  • See also 4
  • External links 5


The State of California allowed a number of tax exemptions one of which was an exemption of property tax for veterans of World War II. Anyone desiring to claim the exemption was required to complete a standard form of application and submit the form with the local tax assessor.

In 1954, the form was revised to add a loyalty oath which the applicant must sign which stated "I do not advocate the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means, nor advocate the support of a foreign government against the United States in event of hostilities."

The appellants refused to sign the oath contending the condition of requiring the oath in order to obtain a tax exemption was unconstitutional. The assessors denied the exemption solely because the appellants had refused to execute the oath by signature. The assessors based their reasoning on Article XX, 19, of the California Constitution adopted in a general election in 1952 which includes language similar to the text of the loyalty oath.


Was the oath requirement a violation of the appellants' First Amendment rights as well as a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The appellees argued that a tax exemption is a privilege and that its denial did not infringe on free speech. The lower California courts did not agree with this contention recognizing that conditions imposed on privileges provided by the state should be reasonable. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

However the Supreme Court of California did construe the constitutional amendment as denying the tax exemption only to claimants who may be criminally punished under the California Criminal Syndicalism Act (California Statute 1919, c. 188) or the Federal Smith Act (18 U.S.C. 2385).

The U.S. Supreme Court in its review asked a more basic question: With the loyalty oath has California chosen a fair method to determine whether a tax exemption claimant is in fact someone to whom the criminal acts specified applies. In other words, though it is reasonable to deny a claimant a tax exemption if the claimant is involved in a criminal behavior, has the state arrived at a mechanism which demonstrates the criminal behavior?

The court ruled that because the state requires the claimant to show they are not advocating state overthrow and hence are not criminals within the applicable laws, the loyalty oath requirement to obtain the tax exemption is unconstitutional. The burden of proof for a criminal action rests on the state and not on the individual private citizen. In other cases, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of loyalty oaths requirements but those involved public officials and not private citizens.

See also

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.