In Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, the United States Supreme Court held that an organization may not enjoin the issuance of a subpoena served on a third party demanding records of the plaintiff organization which are equivalent to membership lists. Thus, the Court took a large step toward repudiating the holding of NAACP v. Alabama that membership lists of controversial but legitimate organizations are protected from the hooks of legislative fishing expeditions and "investigations" which harass more than they inform. The case dealt not with membership lists but with equally important information about contributions. However, the Court's majority avoided squarely facing the protection issue by resting its decision on a finding of congressional immunity. In the process, the Court considerably broadened the scope of congressional immunity and, if it did not actually overrule NAACP, it certainly limited its effectiveness. The case may have the anomalous effect of giving first amendment rights greater protection from state legislators than from the very Congress which the first amendment addresses.
Jill Beckoff Nagy,
A New Rule on Obtaining Membership Information: Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491 (1975),
55 Neb. L. Rev. 299
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