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UNITED STATES v. CROSS

February 17, 1959

UNITED STATES of America
v.
James G. CROSS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KEECH

When we recessed this trial yesterday evening, I took under advisement a motion by the defendant for a judgment of acquittal on the ground that the Government has failed to prove two essential elements of the offense of perjury here charged, namely, that the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field was sitting as a 'competent tribunal' at the time of the alleged false testimony by the defendant and that the alleged false testimony was a 'material matter', within the purview of 18 U.S.C. § 1621. Prior to the defendant's motion the Government had informed the court that it had put in all of its basic evidence on these two elements, in the form of all pertinent portions of the transcripts of the Committee hearings and its Interim Report (S.Rep. No. 1417). While counsel for the Government stated that they expected the testimony of some of their witnesses would bear upon the competence of the Select Committee at the critical time and upon the materiality of the questions put to defendant, they conceded that such testimony would be merely corroborative of the evidence now in the record, which the court has accepted as true in all respects.

Since the court must find, as a matter of law, that these two elements, essential to the crime of perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1621 ( United States v. Debrow, 346 U.S. 374, 376, 74 S. Ct. 113, 98 L. Ed. 92), have been proved, prior to any submission to the jury of the issue of truth or falsity of the alleged perjured testimony, the motion is an appropriate one for disposition at this stage of the trial.

 The pertinent portion of S.Res. 74, 85th Congress, 1st Session, which created the Select Committee, provides:

 'Resolved, That there is hereby established a select committee which is authorized and directed to conduct an investigation and study of the extent to which criminal or other improper practices or activities are, or have been, engaged in in the field of labor-management relations or in groups or organizations of employees or employers to the detriment of the interests of the public, employers or employees, and to determine whether any changes are required in the laws of the United States in order to protect such interests against the occurrence of such practices or activities.'

 The defense, for the record, made the further contention that the resolution defining the scope of the Select Committee's authority is bad for vagueness in authorizing and directing an investigation and study of 'other improper practices', a term which counsel argues is too indefinite, but defense counsel has not pressed this point.

 The resolution does not detail the improper practices which the Select Committee is authorized to investigate, but the Chairman, at the opening of the Committee's first hearings in March, 1957, outlined its purpose, saying:

 'Therefore, in the coming months this committee expects to give attention to problems inherent in labor-management collusion, underworld infiltration of the labor movement, misuse of union and welfare funds, suppression of civil rights and liberties of union members by their leaders, conflict of interest, and the use of violence, shakedowns, and extortions.' (Printed Committee Record, Part 1, p. 2.)

 At the time of initiating the investigation of the Bakery and Confectionery Workers' International Union of America, of which the defendant Cross is and has been President since 1952, the Chairman stated that the hearings would touch upon complaints of dictatorial and undemocratic practices, among other subjects touching that Union.

 The Interim Report of the Select Committee, dated March 24, 1958 (S.Rep. 1417), based upon the investigations of the activities of various unions, including the Bakers' International, suggests legislation to insure union democracy.

 Upon all the material which has been received in evidence, stipulated by both parties to be correct, the court finds:

 (1) That S.Res. 74, creating the Select Committee, is a valid delegation of power to conduct legislative investigations and that it is not bad for vagueness;

 (2) That the Select Committee was duly constituted;

 (3) That a quorum was present at the time of the testimony by the defendant Cross on July 16, 1957, upon which the indictment is based; and

 (4) That the scope and purpose of the Select Committee's investigation of the affairs of the Bakery and Confectionery Workers' International Union of America were within the legislative purpose of the authorizing resolution; and that the hearings could well have led to discovery of facts upon which to base proposed legislation and the enactment of remedial laws.

 'When a committee of Congress is engaged in a legitimate legislative inquiry and the questions propounded are relevant and material to that inquiry, the courts will not question the motives of the questioners. Eisler v. United States, 83 U.S.App.D.C. 315, 170 F.2d 273, 278, 279. And the fact that a crime may be disclosed by the answer does not make a question immaterial. McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135, 136, 47 S. Ct. 319, 71 L. Ed. 580. There are, however, limitations upon the investigative power of the legislature which must be considered in any determination of materiality. The investigation must be to aid in legislation. McGrain v. Daugherty, supra, 273 U.S. at page 178, 47 S. Ct. 319. 'Similarly, the power to investigate must not be confused with any of the powers of law enforcement; those powers are assigned under our Constitution to the Executive and the Judiciary.' Quinn v. United States, 349 U.S. 155, 161, 75 S. Ct. 668, 672, 99 L. Ed. 964.' United States v. Icardi, D.C., 140 F.Supp. 383, 388-389.

 It has been recognized that a legislative committee, although duly authorized to investigate adequately defined subjects in a field where it may legislate, has no power to compel the testimony of a witness for other than a bona fide legislative purpose, even though the testimony be relevant to the subject matter of the authorized investigation. Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 187, 77 S. Ct. 1173, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1273.

 Although the motives of a congressional committee are irrelevant when it interrogates a witness on matters pertaining to an investigation within the scope of its authority, the answers responsive to questions which are not asked for the purpose of eliciting facts in aid of legislation, even though pertinent, are not 'material' to the authorized investigation; and when a duly constituted investigative committee questions a witness solely for a purpose other than to elicit facts in aid of legislation, that committee steps outside its authority and no longer acts as a competent tribunal.

 A legitimate legislative purpose will be presumed when the general subject of investigation is one concerning which Congress can legislate and when the information sought might aid the congressional consideration ( United States v. Orman, 3 Cir., 207 F.2d 148, 157, and cases there cited; Sacher v. United States, 99 U.S.App.D.C. 360, 365, 240 F.2d 46, 51); but ...


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