1937 January 31

ACLU Attorney Claims “Fundamental Right to Get Arrested”


Arthur Garfield Hays, ACLU General Counsel, claimed a “fundamental right to get arrested” in Jersey City, New Jersey, on this day. Hays was active in the fight against the denial of First Amendment rights to speak, picket, and organize labor unions by Mayor Frank (“Boss”) Hague in Jersey City. Hays had demanded to be arrested so that he could bring a challenge to Boss Hague’s policies. “The legal process means nothing,” Hays argued, without an arrest and a civil suit that will “bring out the issues.”

The Jersey City struggle eventually resulted in the landmark Supreme Court Freedom of Assembly decision in Hague v. C.I.O. on June 5, 1939.

Learn more about Hays. He was born on December 12, 1881. And among his many activities, he quit the American Bar Association on April 8, 1943 because it excluded African Americans.

Read about “Boss” Hague and the Jersey City struggle: Steven Hart, American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine (2013)

Read Hays’ account of his early cases: Arthur Garfield Hays, Let Freedom Ring (1928)

Learn more: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read the ACLU FBI File (not the complete file): http://vault.fbi.gov/ACLU

Learn about the ACLU today: www.aclu.org

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