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REEVE v. HOWE

May 3, 1940

REEVE
v.
HOWE et al.; HELLMAN v. SAME



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WELSH

"* * * The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. * * *" Article IV, Amendments of Constitution of the United States.

The only question before us for decision is whether or not the above Constitutional safeguards and guarantees have been violated. Partisanship and political philosophies have no place or bearing in the discussion. Those matters can very well be left to their proper avenues of expression and control.

 The question thus having been placed squarely before a Federal Court for decision requires a full, accurate and complete statement of the facts and the law involved. The Court cannot be otherwise than exceedingly mindful of the fundamental principles of the case thus submitted to it for its decision. The comments of men high in public life, the discussion of the subject in the public press and magazines, and the hundreds of letters on the subject coming to the chambers of the Court all indicate the tremendous feeling that the case has aroused, the state of the public mind due to existing world conditions, and the confused thought as to what the real underlying principles of the case are. We could scarcely discharge our duty in the circumstances without taking due notice of all these factors, and without exercising a wider latitude in our treatment of the problem than in the usual or ordinary case. Hence, we consider it advisable to state as clearly as possible the actual fundamental facts as we believe them to be. Also, the principles of law that govern and which we believe have governed from the time our country was founded, its Constitution adopted, and as this Constitution has been defined and interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States for over 150 years.

 The Courts are concerned only with maintaining the sanctity of the safeguards of the Constitution of the United States. We feel that we should call attention to the exceedingly grave consequences of breaking down the applicable provisions of the Bill of Rights. It just so happens that the aggrieved parties in this case are apparently very much in the minority in our country. But their rights which they claim were invaded are rights that are sacred to all of us. All of our people have the right to form themselves into political parties and to have the free and untrammeled right to the press to promulgate their ideas. The collateral evidence shows that the offices of the political party and the newspaper known as the "American Free Press" were both raided and much property confiscated and taken away.

 The Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Thornhill v. State of Alabama, 60 S. Ct. 736, 744, 84 L. Ed. , decided April 22, 1940, called the attention of our people to the fact that the Continental Congress itself as long ago as October 26, 1774, recognized the utmost importance of this fundamental doctrine in these words: "The last right we shall mention, regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects."

 On April 2, 1940, the defendant George F. Hurley, a special investigator for a United States Congressional Committee known as the Dies Committee, made affidavit before Jacob Dogole, a magistrate of the City and County of Philadelphia, that, upon information and belief, matter of a seditious nature, banned by the Pennsylvania Act No. 275 of June 26, 1919, P.L. 639, as amended by the Act of May 10, 1921, No. 211, P.L. 435, 18 P.S.Pa. §§ 121, 122, was to be found at the headquarters of the Communist Party at No. 250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, and at the headquarters of the International Workers Order, 810 Locust Street, Philadelphia, and praying, under the authority of said Act of Assembly, for the issuance of warrants, authorizing the search and seizure of said seditious matter.

 The search and seizure warrants were issued by Magistrate Dogole, and though by him directed for execution to "any police officer of the City and County of Philadelphia", were nevertheless delivered by the Magistrate to the defendant Hurley. Pursuant thereto, the defendants Hurley and Howe, accompanied by Lieutenant Granitz and a squad of some thirty Philadelphia police officers, proceeded to the said headquarters of the Communist Party aforesaid at 250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, and to the headquarters of the International Workers Order at 810 Locust Street, Philadelphia, and searched and seized and carried away various property, which, however, has since been returned and is now in the custody of the police authorities of the City of Philadelphia.

 It transpired that the headquarters of the Communist Party at 250 South Broad Street were in the apparent occupancy or charge of one Carl Reeve, Educational Director of the Communist Party in Philadelphia.

 On April 3, 1940, the said Carl Reeve, in his representative capacity as Educational Director of the Communist Party, filed in this Court his Complaint, as above captioned, praying for an order (a) quashing the search and seizure warrant issued by Magistrate Dogole; (b) enjoining and restraining the above-named defendants, and each of them, from using, copying, or otherwise interfering with the seized property, or making public any of its contents, and (c) directing the return of the seized property. (The prayer for an order restraining the use or publication of the seized property was subsequently formally withdrawn before us by counsel for Carl Reeve, complainant.)

 On April 12, 1940, Motions to Dismiss the Complaint for want of jurisdiction in this Court, and for failure to state a claim entitling the complainant to the relief prayed for, were filed by counsel for the defendant Albert A. Granitz, and by counsel for Jacob Dogole. Briefs for and against the Motions to Dismiss have since been submitted, and are now before us. As the warrants for the search and seizure both at 250 South Broad Street and at 810 Locust Street were identical in content, what we shall say of the one directed to 250 South Broad Street may be regarded as equally applicable to the other addressed to 810 Locust Street.

 We note, further, that though the warrant was directed for execution to "any police officer of the City and County of Philadelphia", nevertheless it was delivered by the Magistrate to Hurley, who, with Howe and Lieutenant Granitz and a squad of thirty City Police, proceeded to 250 South Broad Street and executed the warrant at that place.

 We note, further, that though under the terms of the warrant, return of the warrant and of the seized property was to be made to the Magistrate forthwith, or at any rate no later than within ten days, nevertheless Hurley and Howe took immediate possession of the seized property, and transported it to Washington, and there delivered it to the Dies Committee, who, having first made such ...


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