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UNITED STATES v. SACHER

March 13, 1956

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
Harry SACHER, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLTZOFF

This is a trial by the Court without a jury of an indictment charging the defendant Harry Sacher with the offense generally known as contempt of Congress, namely, that he willfully refused to answer certain questions addressed to him as a witness by a Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, the function of the Subcommittee being to investigate the administration of the Internal Security Act, and other Internal Security laws, as well as subversive activities.

The indictment charges that the defendant refused to answer questions addressed to him as a witness at a hearing of this Subcommittee on April 19, 1955. The questions are as follows:

 'Are you, Mr. Sacher, a member of the Communist Party, U.S.A.?'

 'Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?'

 'Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Lawyers' Section of the Communist Party, U.S.A.?'

 The Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate is one of its permanent standing committees, and is established by statute as well as by the standing rules of the Senate. By a Resolution of the Senate adopted on December 21, 1950, known as Senate Resolution 366, the Committee on the Judiciary or any duly authorized Subcommittee thereof was authorized and directed to make a complete and continuing study and investigation of (1) the administration, operation, and enforcement of the Internal Security Act of 1950, 50 U.S.C.A. § 781 et seq.; (2) the administration, operation, and enforcement of other laws relating to espionage, sabotage, and the protection of the internal security of the United States; and (3) the extent, nature, and effects of subversive activities in the United Statees, its territories and possessions, including, but not limited to, espionage, sabotage, and infiltration by persons who are or may be under the domination of the foreign government or organizations controlling the world Communist movement or any other movement seeking to overthrow the Government of the United States by force and violence. By a Resolution adopted on March 18, 1955, known as Senate Resolution 58, the creation of this authority of the Committee on the Judiciary was reaffirmed and implemented by powers conferred on the Committee to make certain expenditures and employ certain assistants and consultants.

 On January 20, 1955, by a Resolution of the Committee on the Judiciary a special subcommittee to make investigations under Senate Resolution 366 was continued during the 84th Congress, which is the Congress referred to in this indictment. On February 7, 1955, at a meeting of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary a certain number of members of the committee were appointed to this special subcommittee. Among them were Senators McClellan and Jenner. On the same day at a meeting of the Subcommittee a Resolution was adopted providing that a quorum of the Subcommittee for the purpose of taking sworn testimony should consist of not less than two Senators of said Subcommittee. Authority to fix the quorum had been previously granted by Resolution of the full Committee.

 The proof shows that on April 19, 1955 at a hearing conducted by the Subcommittee at which a quorum was present throughout, consisting of Senator McClellan and Senator Jenner, the defendant was called and sworn as a witness. He was asked a number of questions, among them the three questions involved in this case.

 As to these questions the transcript of the hearing shows that the following proceedings took place.

 He was questioned by Mr. Sourwine, the general counsel of the Committee:

 The defendant declined to answer, giving a rather long explanation for his action, the pertinent parts of the explanation being as follows:

 'I refuse. I refuse categorically, Mr. Chairman, to discuss my beliefs, religious, political, economic or social. I do not do so on the ground of the Fifth Amendment. I do so because it is inconsistent with the dignity of any man to be compelled to disclose his political, religious, economic, social, or any other views. And I respectfully submit that an inquiry to me concerning this matter is not pertinent to anything with which this committee is concerned, and is not relevant to any inquiry that may properly be made ...


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