Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. DEUTCH

December 12, 1956

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Bernhard DEUTCH, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLTZOFF

This is a trial by the court of an indictment for contempt of Congress, a trial by jury having been waived by the defendant.

The defendant is charged with unlawfully refusing to answer questions which were propounded to him as a witness by the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives. There are five questions involved in this indictment, which will be mentioned subsequently. The defendant took the position that he had moral scruples against answering the questions because they involved the activities of other persons and that he was practically being asked to inform on others as to their illegal or improper activities.

 This Court had occasion to say in United States v. Bryan, D.C., 72 F.Supp. 58, 61, that: 'It is elementary that for use in connection with the exercise of its power to legislate and to appropriate funds, the Congress has the authority to secure information. * * * The Congress * * * has the right to compel the disclosure of factual material. * * * For this purpose, the Congress may issue subpoenas to require the attendance of witnesses and to exact the production of records and documents.' And again the Court stated in that case that, 'The collection of facts may cover a wide field. Obviously in order to act in an enlightened manner, it may be necessary and desirable for the Congress to become acquainted not only with the precise topic involved in prospective legislation, but also with all matters that may have an indirect bearing on the subject.' A number of examples are enumerated in that opinion.

 To be sure there is a very definite limitation that must not be overlooked on the power of Congress to investigate. The power to carry on investigations and secure information may be used only in connection with the exercise of its legislative function, and with the appropriation of funds. The information sought to be secured by a congressional committee must be germane to the legislative or the appropriating function. For example, Congress may not compel the divulgence of information for the sole purpose of ascertaining whether a crime has been committed, as a basis for a criminal prosecution. That is a matter for the judiciary and for the prosecuting officers of the government. On the other hand, if some information is desired for use in connection with the exercise of the legislative or appropriating power, the mere fact that the information may be used for some other purpose as well does not deprive the Congress of the right to elicit it.

 In determining whether any question was properly asked of a witness before a congressional committee, three matters must be considered. First, was the general subject matter within the legislative power of the Congress? Second, was the inquiry within the power delegated by the Congress to this specific congressional committee? And, third, were the particular questions pertinent to the inquiry which the committee was pursuing?

 As to the first question, the subject of investigation of Communism is obviously within the legislative function of the Congress, as this Court held in United States v. Sacher, D.C., 139 F.Supp. 855, 858. In that case this Court called attention to the fact that the Congress has legislated on the subject of Communistic activities and other activities tending to overthrow the Government by force and violence, and that the legality of the creation of the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives has been often contested but the contest has always been revolved in favor of the Committee.

 The next question is whether the particular subject matter was within the jurisdiction of this Committee. That question must likewise be answered in the affirmative. The Committee was investigating the infiltration of Communism into educational and labor fields. This general subject was obviously within its jurisdiction.

 The third question to be determined is the pertinency of the specific questions asked of the witness to the subject matter of the inquiry, and in this connection we must consider the questions.

 The first count charges the defendant with refusing unlawfully to answer the following question:

 'The Committee was advised that a witness by the name of Ross Richardson has stated that you acted as liaison between a Communist party group on the campus and a member of the faculty at Cornell, and that you knew the name of the member of that faculty who was a member of the Communist Party. Will you tell us who that member of the faculty was?'

 Obviously, this question is pertinent to the general subject matter under scrutiny, on its very face. The Committee was investigating the infiltration of Communism into education, and obviously it had the right to ascertain the names of university and college teachers who were members of the Communist Party, if any there were. The defendant declined to answer and was directed to answer.

 Court two involves a question as to the source of a hundred-dollar contribution for the benefit of the Communist Party. The defendant refused to answer and was thereafter directed to answer. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.