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Supreme Court of the United States
November 18, 1958, Argued ; June 8, 1959, Decided
[*111] [***1120] [**1085] MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Once more the Court is required to resolve the conflicting constitutional claims of congressional power and of an individual's right to resist its exercise. The congressional power in question concerns the internal process of Congress in moving within its legislative domain; it involves the utilization of its committees to secure "testimony needed to enable it efficiently to exercise a legislative function belonging to it under the Constitution." McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135, 160. The power of inquiry has been employed by Congress throughout our history, over the whole range of the national interests concerning which Congress might legislate or decide upon due investigation not to legislate; it has similarly been utilized in determining what to appropriate [****6] from the national purse, or whether to appropriate. ] The scope of the power of inquiry, in short, is as penetrating and farreaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution.
Broad as it is, the power is not, however, without limitations. Since ] Congress may only investigate into [***1121] those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate, [*112] it cannot inquire into matters which are within the exclusive province of one of the other branches of the Government. Lacking the judicial power given to the Judiciary, it cannot inquire into matters that are exclusively the concern of the Judiciary. Neither can it supplant the Executive in what exclusively belongs to the Executive. And the ] Congress, in common with all branches of the Government, must exercise its powers subject to the limitations placed by the Constitution on governmental action, more particularly in the context of this case the relevant limitations of the Bill of Rights.
The congressional power of inquiry, its range and scope, and an individual's duty in relation to it, must be viewed in proper perspective. McGrain v. Daugherty, supra; Landis, [****7] Constitutional Limitations on the Congressional Power of Investigation, 40 Harv. L. Rev. 153, 214; Black, Inside a Senate Investigation, 172 Harpers Monthly 275 (February 1936). The power and the right of resistance to it are to be judged in the concrete, not on the basis of abstractions. In the present case congressional efforts to learn the extent of a nation-wide, indeed world-wide, problem have brought one of its investigating committees into the field of education. Of course, broadly viewed, inquiries cannot be made into the teaching that is pursued in any of our educational institutions. When academic teaching-freedom and its corollary learning-freedom, so essential to the well-being of the Nation, are claimed, this Court will always be on the alert against intrusion by Congress into this constitutionally protected domain. But this does not mean that the Congress is precluded from interrogating a witness merely because he is a teacher. ] An educational institution is not a constitutional sanctuary from inquiry into matters that may otherwise be within the constitutional legislative domain merely for the reason that inquiry is made of someone within its [****8] walls.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
360 U.S. 109 *; 79 S. Ct. 1081 **; 3 L. Ed. 2d 1115 ***; 1959 U.S. LEXIS 1809 ****
BARENBLATT v. UNITED STATES
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 102 U. S. App. D. C. 217, 252 F.2d 129, affirmed.
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Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Necessary & Proper Clause, Separation of Powers, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, General Overview, Criminal Law & Procedure, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Contempt, Sentencing, Fines, Appeals, Standards of Review, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Federal Government, Domestic Security, Vagueness, Fundamental Freedoms, Judicial & Legislative Restraints, Overbreadth & Vagueness of Legislation, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Scope, Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Interrogation, Miranda Rights, Evidence, Privileges, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Elements, Freedom of Association, US Congress