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Supreme Court of the United States
April 4-5, 1955, Argued ; May 23, 1955, Decided
[*156] [**670] [***969] MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner was convicted of contempt of Congress under 2 U. S. C. § 192 in the District Court for the District of Columbia. Section 192 ] provides for the punishment of any witness before a congressional committee "who . . . refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry . . . ." 1 [****5] On appeal, the Court of Appeals [*157] for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. 2 Claiming that the Court of Appeals should have directed an acquittal, petitioner applied to this Court for certiorari. We granted the writ because of the fundamental and recurrent character of the questions presented. 3
Pursuant to subpoena, petitioner appeared on August 10, 1949, before a subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives. Petitioner was then a member and field representative of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. Also subpoenaed to appear on that day were Thomas J. Fitzpatrick and Frank Panzino, two officers of the same union. At the outset of the hearings, counsel for the committee announced that the purpose of the investigation was to inquire into "the question of Communist affiliation or association of certain members" of the union and "the advisability of tightening present security requirements in industrial plants working on certain Government contracts." 4 All three witnesses were asked questions concerning alleged [**671] membership in the Communist Party. All three declined to answer.
[****6] Fitzpatrick was the first to be called to testify. He based his refusal to answer on "the first and fifth amendments" as well as "the first amendment to the [*158] Constitution, supplemented by the fifth amendment." 5 Immediately following Fitzpatrick's testimony, Panzino was called to the stand. In response to the identical questions put to Fitzpatrick, Panzino specifically adopted as his own the grounds relied upon by Fitzpatrick. 6 In addition, at one point in his testimony, Panzino stated that "I think again, Mr. Chairman, under the fifth amendment, that is my own personal [***970] belief." 7 On the following day, petitioner, unaccompanied by counsel, was called to the stand and was also asked whether he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. Like Panzino before him, he declined to answer, specifically adopting as his own the grounds relied upon by Fitzpatrick. 8
[****7] [*159] On November 20, 1950, all three witnesses were indicted under § 192 for their refusals to answer. 9 [****8] The three cases were tried before different judges, each sitting without a jury. Fitzpatrick and Panzino were acquitted. In Fitzpatrick's case, it was held that his references to "the first and fifth amendments" and "the first amendment to the Constitution, supplemented by the fifth amendment" constituted an adequate means of invoking the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment. 10 Similarly, in Panzino's case, it was held that his reference to "the fifth amendment" was sufficient to plead the privilege. 11 In petitioner's case, however, the District Court held [**672] that a witness may not incorporate the position of another witness and rejected petitioner's defense based on the Self-Incrimination Clause. 12 Petitioner was accordingly convicted and sentenced to a term of six months in jail and a fine of $ 500.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
349 U.S. 155 *; 75 S. Ct. 668 **; 99 L. Ed. 964 ***; 1955 U.S. LEXIS 1381 ****; 51 A.L.R.2d 1157
QUINN v. UNITED STATES
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 91 U. S. App. D. C. 344, 203 F.2d 20, reversed.
questions, refuse to answer, answered, witnesses, apprise, self-incrimination, Communist, invoke, claim of privilege, congressional committee, contempt, deliberate, cases, investigate, acquainted, reasons, specific direction, interrogator, membership, references, grounds, words, trial court, supplemented, incriminate, proceedings, directing, rights
Criminal Law & Procedure, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Contempt, General Overview, Governments, Federal Government, US Congress, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Evidence, Privileges, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Scope, Congressional Duties & Powers, Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Elements, Acts & Mental States, Mens Rea, General Intent