Pennsylvania v. Nelson

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Pennsylvania v. Nelson (1956) overturned the conviction of Steve Nelson, an avowed Communist who had been convicted for violating Pennsylvania’s antisedition statute. According to Chief Justice Earl Warren, the federal government had preempted the field of sedition by enacting a series of statutes, including the 1940 Alien Registration Act, the 1950 Subversive Activities Control Act, and the 1954 Communist Control Act. In reaching the conclusion that Congress had preempted the field, Warren considered three factors: (1) whether the scheme of federal regulation was so pervasive as to leave no room for state regulation, (2) whether the federal interest was so dominant as to preclude state regulation, and (3) whether there was serious danger of conflict between federal and state regulation. The decision effectively invalidated all state sedition statutes.

Robert W. Langran

Last Updated: 2006

SEE ALSO: Hines v. Davidowitz; Preemption