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Supreme Court of the United States
December 16, 1947, Argued ; March 8, 1948, Decided
[*258] [**500] [***686] MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
A Michigan circuit judge summarily sent the petitioner to jail for contempt of court. We must determine whether he was denied the [***687] procedural due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
In obedience to a subpoena the petitioner appeared as a witness before a Michigan circuit judge who was then conducting, in accordance with Michigan law, a "one-man grand jury" investigation into alleged gambling and official corruption. The investigation presumably took place [****4] in the judge's chambers, though that is not certain. [*259] Two other circuit judges were present in an advisory capacity. 1 A prosecutor may have been present. A stenographer was most likely there. The record does not show what other members, if any, of the judge's investigatorial staff participated in the proceedings. It is certain, however, that the public was excluded -- the questioning was secret in accordance with the traditional grand jury method.
After [**501] petitioner had given certain testimony, the judge-grand jury, still in secret session, told petitioner that neither he nor his advisors believed petitioner's story -- that it did not "jell." This belief of the judge-grand jury was not based entirely on what the petitioner had testified. As will later be seen, it rested in part on beliefs or suspicions [****5] of the judge-jury derived from the testimony of at least one other witness who had previously given evidence in secret. Petitioner had not been present when that witness testified and so far as appears was not even aware that he had testified. Based on its beliefs thus formed -- that petitioner's story did not "jell" -- the judge-grand jury immediately charged him with contempt, immediately convicted him, and immediately sentenced him to sixty days in jail. Under these circumstances of haste and secrecy, petitioner, of course, had no chance to enjoy the benefits of counsel, no chance to prepare his defense, and no opportunity either to cross-examine the other grand jury witness or to summon witnesses to refute the charge against him.
Three days later a lawyer filed on petitioner's behalf in the Michigan Supreme Court the petition for habeas corpus now under consideration. It alleged among other [*260] things that the petitioner's attorney had not been allowed to confer with him and that, to the best of the attorney's knowledge, the petitioner was not held in jail under any judgment, decree or execution, and was "not confined by virtue of any legal commitment directed to the [****6] sheriff as required by law." An order was then entered signed by the circuit judge that he had while "sitting as a One-Man Grand Jury" convicted the petitioner of contempt of court because petitioner had testified "evasively" and had given "contradictory answers" to questions. The order directed that petitioner "be confined in the County Jail . . . for a period of sixty (60) days or until such time as he . . . shall appear and answer the questions heretofore propounded to him by this Court . . . ."
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333 U.S. 257 *; 68 S. Ct. 499 **; 92 L. Ed. 682 ***; 1948 U.S. LEXIS 2452 ****
IN RE OLIVER
Prior History: CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MICHIGAN.
In a habeas corpus proceeding, the State Supreme Court denied petitioner's release from imprisonment upon a sentence for contempt. 318 Mich. 7, 27 N. W. 2d 323. This Court granted certiorari. 332 U.S. 755. Reversed, p. 278.
Disposition: 318 Mich. 7, 27 N. W. 2d 323, reversed.
grand jury, contempt, secret, witnesses, judge-grand, jail, due process, questions, convicted, sentenced, one-man, secrecy, contempt of court, judge-jury, evasive, courts, proceedings, notice, misconduct, punish, cases, criminal trial, chambers, corpus, state supreme court, court's authority, open court, demoralization, answers, powers
Governments, Courts, Judges, Criminal Law & Procedure, Interrogation, Miranda Rights, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Justice Courts, Grand Juries, Investigative Authority, General Overview, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Invocation by Witnesses, Warnings, Contempt, Indictments, Secrecy, Matters Occurring Before Grand Jury, Future Protections, Sentencing, Fines, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Speedy Trial, Preliminary Proceedings, Speedy Trial, Right to Jury Trial, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Right to Public Trial, Right to Speedy Trial, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Counsel, Right to Counsel, Right to Due Process, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Contempt, Civil Procedure, Judicial Officers, Judges, Acts & Mental States, Mens Rea, Knowledge, Forfeitures