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UNITED STATES v. BREWSTER

June 26, 1957

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Frank W. BREWSTER



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIRICA

The indictment in this case charges that defendant violated § 192 of Title 2 of the United States Code when he failed to produce certain records subpoenaed by a subcommittee of the Congress and, though directed to testify, refused to answer certain pertinent questions put to him by the committee. The statute reads in part as follows:

'Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers upon any matter under inquiry before either House, or any joint committee established by a joint or concurrent resolution of the two Houses of Congress, or any committee of either House of Congress, willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, * * *.'

 In January of 1957, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, United States Senate, held investigative hearings under the authority of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and pursuant to Senate Resolution 188, 84th Congress. These hearings formed part of a series entitled: 'Violation or Nonenforcement of Government Laws and Regulations in the Labor Union Field'. High officials of the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board had already revealed to the subcommittee the inadequacy of present laws with respect to financial reports filed with these agencies by labor organizations. Furthermore, conferences with representatives of the Bureau of Internal Revenue raised doubts as to the present policy of granting a blanket tax exemption to all labor unions without any assurance that the funds of a given union are being honestly handled. Previous inquiries had disclosed that manipulation of union funds by racketeering officials had raised the prices on many Government purchases. It was the hope of the subcommittee that the facts to be developed in the hearings would enable the Congress to decide whether any change in the statutes or in administrative procedures would better the efficiency of these agencies.

 As part of its check into unreported dealings with union funds by officials in the Western Conference of Teamsters, the subcommittee issued subpoenas to defendant as president of the Western Conference of Teamsters, and as president of Joint Council No. 28, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers, both located in Seattle, Washington. The requirements of both subpoenas were substantially the same, and they directed the defendant to appear before the subcommittee to testify on December 27, 1956 and to produce the books and records of both the Western Conference and of Joint Council 28. By mutual agreement, the date was postponed to January 16, 1957. On that day, defendant was sworn as a witness, but failed to produce any of the documents subpoenaed, and refused to answer questions. He contended that the committee was acting beyond its authority, and that the subpoena was so broad and lacking in particularity as to amount to an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Chairman then dismissed the witness for later recall. Three days later, the witness appeared again without the subpoenaed papers, and this time adamantly refused to reply to subcommittee questioning. By Senate Resolution 92, 85th Congress, First Session, dated February 19, 1957, defendant was cited for contempt of the Senate. After indictment by the Grand Jury, the case was tried by this Court. All parties consented to trial without jury.

 The indictment contains thirty-one counts falling into five major groups. Eleven counts deal with refusals to verify or identify documents filed with the Secretary of Labor by Joint Council 28 and Local 174 of the Teamsters Union (Counts 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17 and 19). Seven counts involve inquiries into the actual, as distinguished from the reported, utilization of union funds (Counts 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25). Defendant also refused to respond to seven questions concerning his intent and purpose in challenging the authority of the subcommittee (Counts 5, 6, 7, 8, 26, 27 and 30). Three questions concerned the instructions circulated among officials of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that no disciplinary action was to be taken against any official who invoked his constitutional privileges (Counts 14, 15 and 31). Two counts charge defendant with failing to obey the two subpoenas mentioned above (Counts 28 and 29). According to the first count, defendant refused to tell the subcommittee his occupation. In every instance, the Chairman overruled defendant's objections and directed him to answer.

 Throughout the trial, defendant's main contentions were: First, that alleged racketeering in the Western Conference of Teamsters was clearly beyond the scope of committee authority; second, that the questions contained in the indictment were not pertinent to the question under inquiry; third, that the subpoenas duces tecum violated the Fourth Amendment as being too broad, sweeping and lacking in particularity; fourth, that when defendant later appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Investigation of Improper Activities in Labor-Management Relations and answered questions similar to those found in the indictment, and when he opened up union files to that Committee, he had 'purged' himself of any contumacy regarding the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; fifth, that the only motive of the subcommittee in conducting its inquiry was to expose and publicize alleged racketeering in unions; and sixth, that testimony of the chief counsel of the subcommittee was inadmissible as evidence. For reasons now given, the Court rejects each of these contentions.

 The first step in resolving the issues presented is to ascertain with all practicable precision the nature and scope of the 'question under inquiry' as it is phrased in the statute. The title, the introductory remarks of the Chairman, and the general nature of the hearings furnish reliable guidance. Compare Watkins v. United States, 77 S. Ct. 1173. The official title of the investigation was 'Violation or Nonenforcement of Government Laws and Regulations in the Labor Union Field'. At the first session on January 16, 1957, the Chairman read a prefatory statement and this statement was given out to all interested parties including defendant and his counsel. It states, in part, as follows:

 '* * * In the course of its (prior) investigation, facts were developed showing collusion between certain dishonest management and union officials that had the effect of increasing the cost to the Government of goods and commodities it purchased and the supplying of inferior quality.

 'In the passage of the Taft-Hartley law in 1947 (29 U.S.C.A. § 141 et seq.), the Congress undertook to protect union members, the general public, and the Government against certain types of racketeering, including the misuse of misappropriation of union funds by dishonest union officials. The law provides that there shall be a registration of labor organizations and a full and accurate report by such organizations of their revenues and expenditures and of all compensation and allowances over and above $ 5,000 paid to and received by labor union officials and union employees from dues collected from members or from other union funds.

 'The subcommittee is aware of recent court decisions which may sharply limit and restrict the right of Government agencies such as the Treasury Department, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board to investigate and determine the accuracy, truthfulness or falseness of various reports the unions and their officials are obligated to file.

 'This subcommittee proposes to determine whether, after such refusal, the continuance of a tax exempt status is warranted or if such tax exempt status should be forfeited by such refusal.'

 'In the course of our previous investigations and this present preliminary inquiry, we have acquired information that clearly indicates that there is labor racketeering in the area of Government procurement resulting in increased cost to the taxpayers for commodities produced; that false reports have been filed by certain labor organizations with respect to their expenditures; that compensation and allowances paid by certain unions to their officials have not been accurately and truthfully reported; that there has been manipulation of accounts involving dues collected from their members, as well as welfare funds; also other irregularities and improprieties have come to the attention of the subcommittee.'

 In his conclusion, the Chairman affirms the subcommittee purpose to look into these matters and, if necessary, to recommend legislation or changes in administrative procedure to aid the above agencies in achieving their statutory goals efficiently and without waste. This, then, is the 'question under inquiry': Whether the true state of union finances are reflected in the reports filed with the Government agencies and, if not, what may be done about it?

 The constitutional power of Congress to inquire into this area is not in question here. 'The power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes.' Watkins v. United States, supra, 77 S. Ct. at page 1179.

 I

 The fundamental question then arises: Did this inquiry fall within the authority delegated by the Congress to the parent Committee on Government Operations and thence to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations? This Court finds that it did.

 The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (Public Law 601, 79th Congress, 2d Sess., 60 Stat. 812(1946) was designed to streamline the committee system of the Senate by reducing the number of standing committees from thirty-three to fifteen, to correspond with major areas of public policy and administration. See Senate Report No. 1400, 79th Congress, 2d Sess. (1946). The statute amended Rule XXV of the Standing Rules of the Senate which sets forth the powers and duties of the Standing Committees. Rule XXV(1)(g) provides as follows:

 '(g) (1) Committee on Government Operations, to consist of thirteen Senators, to which committee shall be referred all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials, and other matters relating to the following subjects:

 '(A) Budget and accounting measures, other than appropriations.

 '(B) Reorganizations in the executive branch of the Government.

 '(2) Such committee shall have the duty of --

 '(A) receiving and examining reports of the Comptroller General of the United States and of submitting such recommendations to the Senate as it deems necessary or desirable in ...


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