To the Editors:
We call attention to the civil liberties aspect of the very important case known as United States v. Marshall, et al, Docket No. 51942, which is scheduled for trial in federal court beginning in November. Eight persons were indicted after the demonstrations at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle which protested the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, including the tactics of Judge Hoffman. The indictment of the Seattle defendants invokes two laws: the anti-riot law and conspiracy.
The anti-riot law was the price that was paid to secure passage of the federal fair housing act of 1968 to which it was attached. Its broader threat to the right of dissent has been recognized by such responsible public officials as former Attorney General Ramsey Clark….
Both the anti-riot and conspiracy laws are disturbingly vague but when played off against one another they represent an especially severe threat to civil liberties. The decision in the Chicago case, which acquitted the defendants on the charge of conspiracy, prevents a constitutional test of the conspiracy law on appeal. The Seattle case may turn out to be the crucial test.
The indictment charges eighteen “overt acts in furtherance of said conspiracy.” Four of the items on this list simply state, without further specification, that on or about a particular date a named set of defendants “met in Seattle, Washington.” Other items say only that one or more of the defendants “spoke to an assemblage of persons in Seattle, Washington,” and “played a tape recorder in Seattle, Washington.” The only two acts not dealing with speech or assembly—the breaking of windows and doors at the Courthouse and Federal Building—are not attributed to any of the defendants (nor is anyone named).
The issue is not the wisdom of the demonstration or the political goals and tactics of the defendants. It is rather that they are entitled to a fair trial under a law which is constitutional. It is on this civil liberties basis that we appeal for financial support. What some people fail to realize is that the greatest violations of civil liberties occur against unpopular causes, but that the effect of the erosions into civil liberty is upon us all.
The attorneys for the defendants, Messers. Maxey, Steinborn, Holley, and Tigar, have all served as attorneys associated with the American Civil Liberties Union. Michael Tigar, Professor of Law at the University of California at Los Angeles, is so convinced of the importance of the constitutional issues at stake that he is taking leave from his academic duties to represent directly the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State in the case. In a letter to our committee, Lee A. Holley has stated: “May I assure you that the consensus of all attorneys and defendants in this case is that our sole role is to seek out a fair jury trial. We hope to expose the truth of the matter of political persecution. We hope to present adequately constitutional issues and thus secure an acquittal.” …This likewise states the objective of our committee, composed of representatives from many departments of the University of Washington. We will be responsible for ensuring that contributions will be used to provide a fair trial and a legal test of the constitutionality of the laws involved.
The need for funds is drastic. The Seattle Eight face months of costly litigation in addition to the prospect of severe prison terms and heavy fines. They have very little money of their own. Checks and money orders should be made payable to the Seattle Eight Defense Committee and sent to the treasurer, Harry McAndrew, at the Department of Mathematics, University of Washington, Seattle 98105.
University of Washington
Department of Philosophy
for The Seattle Eight Defense Committee
October 8, 1970