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KNAPP v. SCHWEITZER

decided: June 30, 1958.

KNAPP
v.
SCHWEITZER, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF GENERAL SESSIONS, ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker

Author: Frankfurter

[ 357 U.S. Page 372]

 MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner is a partner in a New York manufacturing firm engaged in interstate commerce, some of whose employees have been organized by a local union of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Petitioner was subpoenaed to appear before a New York grand jury conducting an inquiry regarding bribery of labor representatives, conspiracy and extortion, constituting crimes under state law. Petitioner, duly sworn, was asked a question concerning the union's representation in certain wage negotiations with petitioner's firm; he refused to answer on the ground that his answer might tend to incriminate him. The grand jury then granted petitioner immunity from prosecution, applying N. Y. Penal Law, §§ 381, 2447, which provides that one duly granted immunity

"shall not be prosecuted or subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for or on account of any transaction, matter or thing concerning which, in accordance with the order by competent authority, he gave answer or produced evidence, and that no such answer given or evidence produced shall be received against him upon any criminal proceeding." § 2447 (2).

Having been thus granted immunity, petitioner was directed to answer the question. He again refused to do so on the ground of possible self-incrimination.

In a subsequent appearance before the grand jury, petitioner was asked, and was directed to answer by the foreman, fourteen other questions concerning relations

[ 357 U.S. Page 373]

     and transactions between petitioner and union officials. Petitioner again invoked the privilege against self-incrimination. On application of the foreman of the grand jury, respondent Schweitzer, as judge of a New York Court of General Sessions, ordered petitioner to return to the grand jury and make answer to the questions put to him.

After further refusal to answer, petitioner was once more ordered to appear before respondent Schweitzer; when he did so, the respondent district attorney moved that petitioner be punished for contempt of court. In opposition to this application petitioner stood on his refusal to answer inasmuch as the immunity granted by the grand jury did not protect him against federal prosecution. Respondent Schweitzer adjudged petitioner in contempt of court and sentenced him to serve thirty days in jail and to pay a fine of $250. 4 Misc. 2d 449, 157 N. Y. S. 2d 820.

Petitioner applied to the Supreme Court of New York for reversal of the contempt conviction and for an order prohibiting respondents from proceeding further in the matter. He alleged that his danger of self-incrimination was attributable to the prosecutorial potentialities of § 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 136, 157, 29 U. S. C. § 186, making it unlawful

"for any employer to pay or deliver, or to agree to pay or deliver, any money or other thing of value to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce" (§ 302 (a)),

and to the fact that the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York had "made public announcement of his intention to cooperate with the [respondent] District Attorney . . . in the prosecution of criminal cases in the field of the subject matter out of which petitioner's commitment arose." The petition for

[ 357 U.S. Page 374]

     reversal of the contempt conviction was denied by the Supreme Court; this judgment was unanimously affirmed in the Appellate Division, 2 App. Div. 2d 579, 157 N. Y. S. 2d 158, and, without opinion, by the Court of Appeals of New York, 2 N. Y. 2d 913, 141 N. E. 2d 825, which duly amended its remittitur to show that it had passed on and rejected petitioner's claim of a privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, 2 N. Y. 2d 975, 142 N. E. 2d 649. We granted certiorari, 355 U.S. 804, to consider this constitutional question.

Petitioner does not claim that his conviction of contempt for refusal to answer questions put to him in a state proceeding deprived him of liberty or property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; that such a claim is without merit was settled in Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78. His contention is, rather, that, because the Congress of the United States has in the exercise of its constitutional powers made certain conduct unlawful, the Fifth Amendment gives him the privilege, which he can assert against either a State or the National Government, against giving testimony that might tend to implicate him in a violation of the federal Act.*fn1 Because of the momentum of adjudication whereby doctrine expands from case to case, such a claim carries dangerous implications. It may well lead to the ...


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