We think that the attitude of the court in regard to the testimony of these three witnesses and the action it took in the presence of the jury in the case of the witness William F. Hudgings was most prejudicial to the defendants. It was very likely to intimidate witnesses subsequently called, to prejudice the jurors against the defendants, and to make them think that the court was satisfied of the defendants' guilt. What a judge may say to the contrary on such an occasion will not necessarily prevent such consequences. It is not enough to justify a conviction that the defendant be guilty. He has a right to be tried in accordance with the rules of law. The defendants in this case did not have the temperate and impartial trial to which they were entitled, and for that reason the judgment is reversed.
[Readers should note that the WatchTower Society has quoted that last sentence countless times over the decades, and has always indicated that such was an assessment of the entire trial. In fact, these short segments of the 15-day long trial were the only part with which the USCA found problems. However, such gave the USCA all it needed on which to hang its hat to rid itself of this post-war nuisance.]
... it is indisputable that the punishment for contempt was imposed solely because of the opinion of the court that the witness was willfully refusing to testify truthfully, that is, was committing perjury. ... ... ...An obstruction to the performance of judicial duty resulting from an act done in the presence of the court is, then, the characteristic upon which the power to punish for contempt must rest. ... in order to punish perjury in the presence of the court as a contempt there must be added to the essential elements of perjury under the general law the further element of obstruction to the court in the performance of its duty. ...
Testing the power to make the commitment which is under consideration in this case by the principles thus stated, we are of opinion that the commitment was void for excess of power --a conclusion irresistibly following from the fact that the [second] punishment was imposed for the supposed perjury alone without reference to any circumstance or condition giving to it an obstructive effect. Indeed, when the provision of the commitment directing that the punishment should continue to be enforced until the contempt, that is, the perjury, was purged, the impression necessarily arises that it was assumed that the power existed to hold the witness in confinement under the punishment until he consented to give a character of testimony which in the opinion of the court would not be perjured.
We think there was sufficient evidence upon which to submit the case to the jury, and that none of the errors assigned is ground for reversal, except in respect to the matters now to be considered. ... ... ...
We think that the attitude of the court in regard to the testimony of [ Mabel Campbell, Agnes Hudgings, and William F. Hudgings] and the action it took in the presence of the jury in the case of the witness William F. Hudgings was most prejudicial to the defendants. It was very likely to intimidate witnesses subsequently called, to prejudice the jurors against the defendants, and to make them think that the court was satisfied of the defendants’ guilt. What a judge may say to the contrary on such an occasion will not necessarily prevent such consequences. It is not enough to justify a conviction that the defendant be guilty. He has a right to be tried in accordance with the rules of law. The defendants in this case did not have the temperate and impartial trial to which they were entitled, and for that reason the judgment is reversed.
Justice Manton not only voted against the reversal/remand of the USDC conviction, but Justice Manton even took the time to author a lengthy "Dissent" (edited):
I dissent. As stated in the prevailing opinion, the [defendants] ... were officers or employees of the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society, the People's Pulpit Association, and the International Bible Students’ Association, ... . While our country was at war, and before the armistice was signed, the defendants were tried and convicted on an indictment containing the four following counts:
First Count. A conspiracy to cause insubordination, etc., in the military and naval forces of the United States.
Second Count. A conspiracy to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States.
Third Count. An attempt to cause insubordination, etc., in the military and naval forces of the United States.
Fourth Count. Obstructing the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States, etc.
The offenses charged were committed between June 16, 1917, and May 6, 1918. The corporations, acting through their officers and employees, who were indicted, between June 30, 1917, and March, 1918, caused to be published 850,000 copies of a book called "The Finished Mystery." These copies were distributed in large numbers in the army camps of the United States, and many hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed throughout the United States and Canada. The book purported to be an interpretation of the Book of Revelations and the Book of Ezekiel. ... in about the center of the book, are found writings, placed there in a very insinuative manner, of which the following extracts are a type:
"... Satan has placed three great untruths, human immorality, the Antichrist and a certain delusion which is best described by the word Patriotism, but which is in reality murder, the spirit of the very Devil. ... Under the guise of Patriotism the civil governments of earth demand of peace-loving men the sacrifice of themselves and their loved ones and the butchery of their fellows, and hail it as a duty demanded by the laws of heaven." -- Page 247.
"If you say that this war is a last resort in a situation which every other method, patiently tried, has failed to meet, I must answer that this is not truth -- that other ways and means of action, tried by experience and justified by success, have been laid before the administration and willfully rejected. In its ultimate causes, this war is the natural product of our unchristian civilization. ... There is not a question raised, an issue involved, a cause at stake, which is worth the lite of one blue-jacket on the sea or one khaki-coat in the trenches." -- Page 251
At about this stage, the fertile mind of the reader would be very much interested, if sanctimonious at all. At this stage, he is supplied this food of poison for his patriotism and loyalty to his country. Under the mockery of religion or religious teaching, I can conceive of no worse thrust at America and at America's needs, at the time of the publication of this book, than that which was published in this book by the defendants. We in America all accord to men of all religious faiths the right to an honest and faithful belief in their creed and the practice of it accordingly, but that the defendants’ efforts were intentional and for the desired purpose is apparent from a mere recital of some of the happenings during this period.
The defendant Rutherford wrote on July 17, 1917, referring to The Finished Mystery:
"It seemed good to the Lord to have the seventh volume prepared. ... When the time came for publishing this work we were in the midst of much opposition, and knowing that to consult the opposers would hinder the publishing of the volume, I took counsel with Brothers Van Amburgh, MacMillan, Martin, and Hudgings of the office force."
The book was paid for out of the funds of the corporation with which the defendants were associated and which they managed. The effect of the book upon the drafted men is exemplified by some of these circumstances. As instances:
One Dutchess, formerly a National Guardsman, sold a copy of the book to one Sisson of Binghamton, N. Y. The latter claimed exemption later before the local board as a conscientious objector and was aided in this by the defendant Van Amburgh.
One Insberg was drafted and sent to Camp Devens in October, 1917. After purchasing the book, he refused to perform any military duty. He later bought a dozen volumes of the book and put them in the library of the Young Men's Christian Association at Camp Devens. Later he deserted.
One De Cecca was drafted, sent to Camp Devens, took a copy of the book with him, and then refused to work in camp.
One Niciti was drafted, sent to Camp Devens, got 30 copies of the book, distributed them in camp. After he put on his uniform, he took it off and refused to do any work in camp.
One Anderson was drafted and sent to Camp Upton. After reading the book, he deserted, came to the [Brooklyn] Tabernacle [WatchTower HQ], and while there an army officer was looking for him. He saw the officer; used the fire escape as a means of escaping from the building.
The record is replete with evidence indicating the defendants’ active advising men subject to the draft to claim their exemption and to refuse to perform any duty in camp if they were drafted.
A pamphlet was later published, called the Bible Students’ Monthly, and this by the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society. An article therein was as follows:
"Young man, the lowest aim of your life is to be a good soldier. A good soldier never tries to distinguish right from wrong. ... A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless, murderous machine. He is not a man; he is not even a brute, for brutes only kill in self-defense. ... No man can fall lower than a soldier. It is a depth beneath which we cannot go."
Ten thousand copies of this [Bible Students’] Monthly containing this quotation were reprinted in October, 1917, and paid for by defendants in the name of the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society.
The guilt of the defendants is plain, and I do not understand that the majority of the court are of the opinion that the facts did not warrant this conclusion of the jury.
But this judgment is to be reversed because of the alleged adverse attitude of [Judge Howe] in regard to the testimony of three witnesses, Mrs. Mabel Campbell, Mrs. Agnes Hudgings, and William F. Hudgings, and the action taken by [Judge Howe] in the presence of the jury in the case of the witness Hudgings in committing him for contempt of court, saying it was so prejudicial to the defendants that it could not be cured by the many words of caution expressed by [Judge Howe].
In order to establish its case, the government found it necessary to call as witnesses employees and others who were attached to and associated with the defendant corporations. Mrs. Mabel Campbell was a stenographer for the defendants. She had written letters, carbon copies of which were taken from the defendants by a search warrant. She identified initials on the letters, and was placed on the witness stand to identify the letters. She refused to identify the letters. [Judge Howe] was apparently of the opinion that [Mabel Campbell] was not telling the truth, and from the recital of what took place, as this record discloses, [Judge Howe] was undoubtedly correct in this conclusion.
Agnes Hudgings, also a stenographer, wrote certain letters to which she attached initials which she used in her course of business conduct in writing such letters; letters indicating the initials of the person who dictated the letter. She was the wife of one of the officers of the association. She refused to identify the letters, and [Judge Howe], having reached the conclusion that [Agnes Hudgings] was not telling the truth, did not hesitate to tell her that she was evading and fencing, and not frank and truthful. Whatever was said by [Judge Howe] in his questions was at once followed by directing the jury not to permit it to prejudice any one; that it should not reflect against the defendants or the government, for nothing appeared, he said, indicating that the defendants or the defendants’ counsel were responsible for the attitude taken by the witnesses, the two stenographers.
Hudgings was called as a witness to identify the handwriting of one of the defendants, MacMillan. He was in close association in the same office, sitting within 10 feet of the desk occupied by MacMillan for two years, and declared that he could not identify the handwriting of either MacMillan or Van Amburgh.
At this stage of the trial, the conduct of the witnesses who were called, and who were associated with the defendants, became so palpable that [Judge Howe] properly told [William Hudgings that] he was not telling the truth. [Judge Howe] ordered [William Hudgings] committed for contempt of court. At once [Judge Howe] instructed the jury:
"There is no evidence in the case to justify you in drawing the inference that any of the defendants are responsible for the attitude taken by the witness, so that you should not draw any inference against the defendants."
The right to commit for contempt of court, or to summarily cause the arrest of a witness for perjury, is well recognized and approved by our courts. Of course, there must be facts justifying the contempt proceedings. This rule was recently laid down in Re Hudgings, 249 U. S. 378, 39 Sup. Ct. 337, 63 L. Ed. 656, decided April 14, 1919, by the Supreme Court of the United States. In this recent decision of the Supreme Court, the power to commit for contempt, when the circumstances warranted it, was recognized; but it was held that in the particular instance of Hudgings the circumstances did not warrant his commitment.
Throughout the trial, [Judge Howe] constantly protected the defendants’ rights by frequent caution, and in many instances [Judge Howe] asked the jury not to be prejudiced because of occurrences which took place during the course of the trial, which [Judge Howe] felt might in some way prejudice the defendants. And again, in the charge to the jury, [Judge Howe] left with the jury the statement that he had no opinion as to the facts, and that the facts were for the jury solely, and that no unfavorable inferences should be drawn by reason of any statement made by [him], nor should they be influenced by anything that occurred during the course of the trial. The rule has long been established that the trial judge of the District Court has wide latitude in the conduct of a trial; he may even comment upon the weight of evidence; so, too, he may comment upon the conduct of the witnesses and of counsel. [Authorities cited.]
Indeed, it is my opinion that the learned [Judge Howe] was most patient and considerate of the defendants’ rights. His consideration at defendants’ counsel, who in their zeal to protect their clients‘ interest many times overstepped the bounds of due respect to the dignity of the court, was magnanimous and kindly.
I see no error warranting a reversal of this conviction in the conduct of [Judge Howe], and in my opinion the [conviction] should be affirmed.
The case of the United States v. Rutherford Et Al ... involved the distribution of "The Finished Mystery." United States District Judge Howe, Eastern District of New York, in submitting the case to the jury was evidently of the same opinion as District Judge Neterer in submitting to the jury the several questions of fact involved.In this case the defendant admitted that he was not doing anything to assist the United States in the prosecution of the present war; this attitude permits us to judge of his intent in the mailing of this literature; the organization to which he belongs, and of which he is manager, admits that it is doing nothing to assist the Government in the prosecution of the war. Neither the defendant nor any of the other members of this Society are subscribers to the Red Cross; if it be true that they have conscientious scruples against war and honestly believe that it is morally wrong for them to protect their country against invasion, by what process of reasoning can they justify their refusal to contribute to the American Red Cross Society, an organization which is making such supreme individual sacrifices in the cause of common humanity?This book is the worst sort of dangerous propaganda. It is labeled as a bible and professes to be founded upon the teachings of the Christ. Yet the Savior never countenanced disloyalty to country, craven cowardice, or opposition to the laws of the land, and this volume is dangerous propaganda because it is distributed to weak-minded persons who are easily influenced. Thus we find the defendant advising a young girl, Miss Dottie Florance, not to finish her crocheting because the end of the world will come before the work can be finished; we find him suggesting to her that it would be more to the credit of the soldier boys if they would stay home and refuse to go out ;we find him even attempting to instill into her mind the thought that the invasion of Belgium was justified, because it was ordained by the will of God.At no place in this book has loyalty to the Government of the United States been in any way encouraged. While the Government does not claim that men should be prosecuted and convicted simply because they are disloyal in mind and thought, we do contend that men and women plainly violate the provisions of the Espionage Act by the publication and distribution of a book such as "The Finished Mystery," and that to a prosecution based upon such distribution, it is no defense to say that a portion of the book contains correct translations from the Scripture.We respectfully submit that the judgment should be affirmed.
SAIA v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK was a 1948 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision, which is a criminal case that receives much less publicity from the WatchTower Society, its' Jehovah's Witnesses members, and their liberal supporters. Although SCOTUS reversed the criminal conviction of the Jehovah's Witness defendant/appellant, who was represented by Hayden Covington, it did so only by a narrow 5-4 split decision. The SAIA case deals with the issue of the Jehovah's Witnesses' use of loud-speakers to blast unwilling listeners with WatchTower propaganda.
This court case is especially interesting to this Editor, because my own Jehovah's Witness Great-Grandfather also used a loud-speaker to assault unwilling listeners with the propaganda of the WatchTower Society back during the mid 1930s. My JW Great-Grandfather lived in a small rural town, whose population was probably only around 400-500 people at that time. Having worn out his welcome calling at his neighbor's doorsteps with WatchTower literature, my JW GGF proceeded to install a loud-speaker on the roof of his house. Whether GGF himself sometimes spoke, or whether he used pre-recorded Rutherford lectures, or whether he hooked the loudspeaker to a radio set which was broadcasting Rutherford's lectures, JW GGF used the roof-mounted loud-speaker to BLAST WatchTower propaganda to unwilling listeners throughout the small rural community.
Saia was a resident of Buffalo, New York, who was arrested in Lockport, New York, for violating a city ordinance which regulated the use of loud-speakers and other sound amplification devices. The ordinance required persons wishing to use sound amplification within the city limits to apply for a permit from the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police actually granted Saia a permit for a 30 day period. On four successive Sundays, Saia traveled to Lockport, where Saia set up his equipment in the City Park, and blasted unwilling park visitors with WatchTower propaganda. However, after having received multiple complaints, the Chief of Police refused to renew Saia's permit for an additional 30 day period.
Despite not having the required permit, Saia continued to blast the City Park for four additional Sundays. Such fact would seem to indicate that the Chief of Police was exercising discretion, and that the Chief hoped Saia would discontinue his unwelcomed activities in Lockport. However, Saia was eventually arrested and charged for not having the required permit. Interestingly, the arresting officer reported that when he confronted Saia, that Saia pulled out a bunch of WatchTower supplied legal materials, and started reading from such in an effort to intimidate the officer. Specifically, the officer stated that Saia read materials that stated that if the officer arrested Saia that the officer would be subject to 15 - 50 years in prison, and a $5000.00 fine. Saia was convicted, and thereafter lost two appeals in New York courts, before his case was heard by SCOTUS.
Justice Robert Jackson, who is the Jehovah's Witnesses' oft quoted hero in the WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION v. BARNETTE (1943) decision, voted against the JW position in this instance. Jackson's dissent likely has played a significant role in making sure that the precedent established by the majority opinion has been interpreted acceptably. Jackson stated, in part:
"I dissent from this decision, which seems to me neither judicious nor sound and to endanger the great right of free speech by making it ridiculous and obnoxious, more than the ordinance in question menaces free speech by regulating use of loud-speakers. Let us state some facts which the Court omits:
"The City of Lockport, New York, owns and maintains a public park of some 28 acres dedicated by deed to 'Park purposes exclusively'. The scene of action in this case is an area therein set apart for the people's recreation. The City has provided it with tables, benches, and fireplaces for picnic parties, a playground and wading pool for children, and facilities for such games as horseshoe pitching, bowling and baseball.
"The appellant, one of Jehovah's Witnesses, contends, and the Court holds, that without the permission required by city ordinance he may set up a sound truck so as to flood this area with amplified lectures on religious subjects. It must be remembered that he demands even more than the right to speak and hold a meeting in this area which is reserved for other and quite inconsistent purposes. He located his car, on which loud-speakers were mounted, either in the park itself, not open to vehicles, or in the street close by. The microphone for the speaker was located some little distance from the car and in the park, and electric wires were strung, in one or more instances apparently across the sidewalk, from the one to the other. So that what the Court is holding, is that the Constitution of the United States forbids a city to require a permit for a private person to erect, in its streets, parks and public places, a temporary public address system, which certainly has potentialities of annoyance and even injury to park patrons if carelessly handled. It was for setting up this system of microphone, wires and sound truck without a permit, that this appellant was convicted - it was not for speaking.
"It is astonishing news to me if the Constitution prohibits a municipality from policing, controlling or forbidding erection of such equipment by a private party in a public park. Certainly precautions against annoyance or injury from operation of such devices are not only appropriate, but I should think a duty of the city in supervising such public premises. And a very appropriate means to supervision is a permit which will inform the city's police officers of the time and place when such apparatusi to be installed in the park. I think it is a startling perversion of the Constitution to say that it wrests away from the states and their subdivisions all control of the public property so that they cannot regulate or prohibit the irresponsible introduction of contrivances of this sort into public places.
"The Court, however, ignores the aspects of the matter that grow out of setting up the system of amplifying appliances, wires and microphones on public property, which distinguish it from the cases cited as authority. It treats the issue only as one of free speech. To my mind this is not a free speech issue. It has in no way denied or restricted the free use, even in its park, of all of the facilities for speech with which nature has endowed the appeliant. It has not even interfered with his inviting an assemblage in a park space not set aside for that purpose. Can it be that society has no control of apparatus which, when put to unregulated proselyting, propaganda and commercial uses, can render life unbearable? It is intimated that the City can control the decibels; if so, why may it not prescribe zero decibels as appropriate to some places? It seems to me that society has the right to control, as to place, time and volume, the use of loud-speaking devices for any purpose, provided its regulations are not unduly arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory.
"But the Court points out that propagation of his religion is the avowed and only purpose of appellant and holds that Lockport cannot stop the use of loud-speaker systems on its public property for that purpose. If it is to be treated as a case merely of religious teaching, I still could not agree with the decision. Only a few weeks ago we held that the Constitution prohibits a state or municipality from using taxsupported property 'to aid religious groups to spread their faith.' People of State of Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, ... Today we say it compels them to let it be used for that purpose. In the one case the public property was appropriated to school uses; today it is public property appropriated and equipped for recreational purposes. I think Lockport had the right to allocate its public property to those purposes and to keep out of it installations of devices which would flood the area with religious appeals obnoxious to many and thereby deprive the public of the enjoyment of the property for the purposes for which it was properly set aside. And I cannot see how we can read the Constitution one day to forbid and the next day to compel use of public tax-supported property to help a religious sect spread its faith.
"There is not the slightest evidence of discrimination or prejudice against the appellant because of his religion or his ideas. This same appellant, not a resident of Lockport but of Buffalo, by the way, was granted a permit by the Chief of Police and used this park for four successive Sundays during the same summer in question. What has been refused is his application for a second series of four more uses of the park. Lockport is in a climate which has only about three months of weather adaptable for park use. There are 256 recognized religious denominations in the United States and even if the Lockport populace supports only a few of these, it is apparent that Jehovah's Witnesses were granted more than their share of the Sunday time available on any fair allocation of it among denominations.
"There is no evidence that any other denomination has ever been permitted to hold meetings or, for that matter, has ever sought to hold them in the recreation area. It appears that on one of the Sundays in question the Lutherans were using the ball park. This also appears to be public property. It is equipped with installed loud-speakers, a grandstand and bleachers, and surrounded by a fence six feet high. There is no indication that these facilities would not be granted to Jehovah's Witnesses on the same terms as to the Lutherans. It is evident, however, that Jehovah's Witnesses did not want an enclosed spot to which those who wanted to hear their message could resort. Appellant wanted to thrust their message upon people who were in the park for recreation, a type of conduct which invades other persons' privacy and, if it has no other control, may lead to riots and disorder. The Court expresses great concern lest the loud-speakers of political candidates be controlled if Jehovah's Witnesses can be. That does not worry me. Even political candidates ought not to be allowed irresponsibly to set up sound equipment in all sorts of public places, and few of them would regard it as tactful campaigning to thrust themselves upon picnicking families who do not want to hear their message. I think the Court is over concerned about danger to political candidacies and I would deal with that problem when, and if, it arises.
"But it is said the state or municipality may not delegate such authority to a Chief of Police. I am unable to see why a state or city may not judge for itself whether a Police Chief is the appropriate authority to control permits for setting up sound-amplifying apparatus. Cox v. New Hampshire, ... . It also is suggested that the city fathers have not given sufficien guidance to his discretion. But I did not suppose our function was that of a council of revision. The issue before us is whether what has been done has deprived this appellant of a constitutional right. It is the law as applied that we review, not the abstract, academic questions which it might raise in some more doubtful case.
"I disagree entirely with the idea that 'Courts must balance the various community interests in passing on the constitutionality of local regulations of the character involved here.' It is for the local communities to balance their own interests-that is politics-and what courts should keep out of. Our only function is to apply constitutional limitations. ... "
PEOPLE v. VAUGHAN was a 1944 California criminal appellate court case which demonstrates the attitude of many Jehovah's Witnesses, as fostered by the WatchTower Society, of not only that period, but even of today. In this 1940s instance, two Jehovah's Witnesses, named Grace Vaughan and Leon Scheerer, were arrested and convicted of disturbing the peace in Los Angeles. The conviction was upheld on appeal.
On a Sunday morning, Vaughan and Scheerer decided to go to the Daily Hotel to perform recruiting activities. Vaughan was a female Jehovah's Witness, and she requested that Scheerer, a male, accompany her to the Daily Hotel, because Vaughan was expecting trouble. Vaughan had performed recruiting activities at the Daily Hotel on at least two previous occasions. Only six weeks earlier, Vaughan had been confronted by hotel employees, and she was told to leave the premises. On that earlier occasion, the Hotel Manager had told Vaughan that the hotel had a rule that required "visitors" to come to the office and ask for the specific "guest" that the visitor wished to see. The Manager explained to Vaughan that her repeated knocking and talking was disturbing the hotel's guests, many of whom worked nights and were day sleepers. However, according to the Manager, Vaughan insisted that the Lord sent her to the hotel; that she had a right to knock at the hotel's doors without the Manager's consent; and that she would continue to do so.
On the Sunday morning in question, Vaughan and Scheerer arrived at the hotel around 9:30 A.M., and began their soliciting by knocking on the doors of the rooms on the second floor of the three-story hotel. By the time the Hotel Manager confronted Vaughan on the second floor, there was also a commotion on the third floor, which was probably caused by Scheerer. The Hotel Manager again told Vaughan that her activities were disturbing the guests who were sleeping, and that the two Jehovah's Witnesses must leave the premises. Per the trial court record:
"The defendants, who appear to have fortified themselves with information on various legal decisions in which their organization has been involved, said to this, 'We have a right to knock on these doors and talk to people.'"
The Hotel Manager then called the police. However, according to the trial court record, the two Jehovah's Witnesses apparently were able to intimidate the two Los Angeles police officers by citing various SCOTUS cases won by the WatchTower Society and other Jehovah's Witnesses. The two police officers told the Hotel Manager that they had no grounds for arresting Vaughan and Scheerer, because no offense had been committed in their presence. Before leaving, the two police officers did tell the Hotel Manager that the staff could use whatever force was necessary to keep the peace. After the police left, Vaughan and Scheerer resumed their solicitations. Thereafter, the hotel's Desk Clerk forcibly pulled Scheerer out of one of the guest rooms, and an argument ensued. Believe it or not, Vaughan then called the police. When the police officers returned, the two Jehovah's Witnesses asked that the Desk Clerk be arrested for "assault and battery". Instead, the Desk Clerk and the two JWs were taken to the police station. There, the two JWs were eventually arrested on the Desk Clerk's sworn complaint of "disturbing the peace".
At trial, the Hotel Manager, the Desk Clerk, and seven or so hotel guests testified as to how Vaughan and Scheerer had disturbed the peace at the hotel on the Sunday in question. One female guest testified that she worked at nights and was asleep when she was awakened by pounding on her door. She turned over and went back to sleep. A few moments later, she was again awakened by pounding on her door. She got up to see who was there and found Vaughan at her door. Vaughan offered the female guest some literature, which was refused. The guest said she was sleepy and tired and did not want to be disturbed. However, Vaughan "kept talking and I closed the door in her face." The guest went back to bed, but again heard pounding on the doors of adjacent rooms, and loud talking outside of her room. She heard a man who rented a room across from her room tell Vaughan, "Get out of here and stay out."
One male hotel guest testified that he worked nights, and that he was in bed when there was a knock at his door. He got up and went to the door, and there found Vaughan. She spoke about her religious views, came into his room, and put some literature on his dresser. He told her he had been working all night, and had been sleeping, and was tired, and that he had no time to talk to her. "She made a statement about I was in the bed and the bed was afire and I was the kind of man who didn't know it was on fire and she wanted to wake me up." Vaughan kept on standing in the doorway talking, and she would not leave until the male guest made several requests. The local appellate court upheld the trial court's criminal conviction of the two Jehovah's Witnesses (who later unsuccessfully attempted to get the California Supreme Court to review and overturn this decision), stating in part:
"Defendants contend that they have a constitutional right to go into the halls of such a hotel as is here involved and knock on the doors of the rooms for the purpose of preaching the gospel and distributing religious literature to the tenants and that the operator of such hotel cannot lawfully exclude them. We doubt whether this claimed right is determinative ... of the case, for even if defendants' presence in the hotel was a proper exercise of such right, we are aware of no decision that freedom of speech, press and religion carries with it a freedom to disturb the peace of others in the manner shown here. We find no such holding in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), ... , or in Martin v. Struthers (1943), ... , on which defendants rely.
"But if the right of defendants to enter within the hotel is material, we think they did not have such right, in face of the hotel management's order excluding them. ... The Fourteenth Amendment, on which the defendants base their claims, applies only to action by or under color of the authority of the state; it does not run against the action of private individuals, whether hotel proprietors or others, not purporting to be an exercise of the power of the state. ... From the evidence the place in question appears to be an ordinary hotel, or at least a lodging house. Its character in this respect is not necessarily altered by the fact that many or the majority of its guests are not transients and that some of them occupy their rooms on a monthly basis. ... The guests of such a place are not tenants and have no interest in the realty; they are mere licensees and the control of the rooms, halls and lobbies remains in the proprietor. ... Since the proprietor, rather than the guests, has the control of the place and its lobbies and halls, he may exclude persons such as defendants therefrom, or make rules regarding their admission. In Goldstein v. Healy (1921), ... it is held that the guests of a hotel may invite others to visit them, as of right, and that such invitees are lawfully in the hotel and entitled to the exercise of due care for their safety by the innkeeper; but there the court also held this right of ... the guest to be subject to reasonable regulation by the management. Here there was such a regulation, which the defendants violated; moreover, they had not been invited by any guest to enter and hence this rule is not applicable to the case. In support of their argument on this matter defendants rely mainly on Commonwealth v. Richardson (1943), ... and Martin v. Struthers ... . In the Massachusetts case a statute referring to the person having 'lawful control' of premises was involved and the court held that by reason of the construction and arrangement of the lobbies and halls of the apartment house there in question the tenants had control thereof and the landlord did not. The place in question here had no housekeeping facilities for its guests; as far as appears they occupied single rooms, not suites or apartments; there were no means by which they could control entrance to the lobby or halls and it was clearly not an apartment house. The Massachusetts case is not applicable to it. Martin v. Struthers dealt with governmental action and is not applicable to the conduct of hotel keepers, but it recognizes the right of those in control of private property to exclude therefrom persons on errands like that of defendants. ... ...
"Defendants' further attack on the statute is not against its terms in general but on the ground that it enforcement against them infringes on the rights guaranteed them by the Fourteenth Amendment. We have already sufficiently discussed this matter We are satisfied that the guarantee of freedom of speech, press and religion does not entitle any person to go into a hotel or lodging house, over the objection of the proprietors, and there disturb the peace of the guests, in the manner shown by this record."