George Anastaplo has died aged 88. The political philosopher and Loyola Chicago law professor as a young man defied the Illinois State Bar which refused to admit him because he would not say if he was a Communist or not. He appealed - all the way to the Supreme Court which upheld the denial in a 1961 opinion by Justice John Marshall Harlan. The high court recited the state's Character and Fitness committee's findings
"We draw no inference of disloyalty or subversion from applicant's continued refusal to answer questions concerning Communist or other subversive affiliations. We do, however, hold that there is a strong public interest in our being free to question applicants for admission to the bar on their adherence to our basic institutions and form of government and that such public interest in the character of its attorneys overrides an applicant's private interest in keeping such views to himself. By failing to respond to this higher public interest, we hold that the applicant has obstructed the proper functions of the Committee. . . . We cannot certify the applicant as worthy of the trust and confidence of the public when we do not know that he is so worthy and when he has prevented us from finding out."
Harlan relied on its holding in Konigsberg v. State Bar of Callifornia, explaining "there was some, though weak, independent evidence that the applicant had once been connected with the Communist Party, while here, there was no such evidence as to Anastaplo...it is of no constitutional significance whether the State's interrogation of an applicant on matters relevant to these qualifications -- in this case, Communist Party membership -- is prompted by information which it already has about him from other sources, or arises merely from a good faith belief in the need for exploratory or testing questioning of the applicant."
Relying on the promise of liberty in the Declaration of Independence, Anastaplo an immigrant from Greece at age ten, also refused to say if he was member of a church, believed in a "supreme being" or was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Justice Hugo Black, joined by Chief Justice Warren, and Associates Douglas and Brennan, explained:
After having received his pre-college education in the public schools of his home town, he had discontinued his education at the age of eighteen, and joined the Air Force during the middle of World War II -- flying as a navigator in every major theater of the military operations of that war. Upon receiving an honorable discharge in 1947, he had come to Chicago and resumed his education, obtaining his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago and entering immediately into the study of law at the University of Chicago Law School. His record throughout his life, both as a student and as a citizen, was unblemished.