1930 January 12

ACLU Demands Inquiry into Missing Files in Dismissed Birth Control and Censorship Cases


The ACLU on this day wrote a strong letter to Chief Magistrate William MacAdoo of New York City demanding an inquiry into missing files and materials from two anti-civil liberties criminal cases which were both dismissed last year. One case involved a “scandalous” police raid on the Birth Control Clinic in April 1929. The files included some sensitive private medical information about the clinic’s patients

The other case involved the seizure of The Well of Loneliness, a novel by Radclyffe Hall with a lesbian theme, in a raid by John Sumner, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, the leading anti-smut group in the city, if not the entire country. Repeated requests for the return of the seized books had not been answered.

The ACLU letter argued that a full inquiry into the actions of Magistrate Albert H. Vitale, who heard both cases, was needed to ensure the “protection of citizens of this community against illegal proceedings.”

Read: 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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