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Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan

406 U.S. 583 (1972)

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Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan

United States Supreme Court

406 U.S. 583 (1972)

Facts

Ohio election law required any political party seeking access to the ballot to take an elaborate loyalty oath and disclaimer of subversive activities unless the party had been on the ballot in elections since 1900. In other words, Democrats and Republicans were exempt. In 1968 the Socialist Labor Party (plaintiff) brought a lawsuit challenging other sections of the Ohio election law as unconstitutional on equal-protection grounds, but the party did not challenge the loyalty-oath provision. The Supreme Court struck down the challenged provisions, prompting Ohio to revise much of its election law. Unsatisfied with the changes, the Socialist Labor Party brought a second federal lawsuit in 1970 that challenged multiple provisions, including the loyalty-oath requirement. The district court convened a three-judge panel to hear the case, which struck down as unconstitutional all the challenged provisions except the loyalty oath. Both sides appealed to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Ohio again rewrote its election law to modify all the provisions that the court invalidated. That made all the issues raised in the appeal moot—except for the Socialist Labor Party’s claim as to the loyalty oath.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

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