Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal.
Petitioner Harry M. Blackmer, an American citizen, failed to respond to subpoenas served upon him while traveling in France, which required him to appear as a witness on behalf of the United States at a criminal trial. Petitioner was held in contempt, and a fine with costs was imposed, to be satisfied out of the property of petitioner, which had been seized by order of the court. The court of appeals upheld the contempt conviction and fine. The subpoenas were issued and served, and the proceedings to punish for contempt were taken, under the provisions of the Act of July 3, 1926, c. 762, 44 Stat. 835, U. S. C., Tit. 28, §§ 711-718. The aforementioned statute provided that whenever the attendance at the trial of a criminal action of a witness abroad, who was "a citizen of the United States or domiciled therein,” was desired by the Attorney General, or any assistant or district attorney acting under him, the judge of the court in which the action was pending may order a subpoena to issue, to be addressed to a consul of the United States and to be served by him personally upon the witness with a tender of traveling expenses. Upon proof of such service and of the failure of the witness to appear, the court may make an order requiring the witness to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt, and upon the issue of such an order the court may direct that property belonging to the witness and within the United States may be seized and held to satisfy any judgment which may be rendered against him in the proceeding. Petitioner asserted that 28 U.S.C.S. §§ 711-718 violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Did 28 U.S.C.S. §§ 711-718 violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, thereby warranting the reversal of the judgment against petitioner?
On certiorari, the Court affirmed the decrees, holding that a proceeding to punish for contempt of court did not require petitioner's presence in order to satisfy due process, since there had been suitable notice and an opportunity to be heard on the contempt charges. Moreover, the power of Congress to provide, legislatively, for the service of subpoenas on American citizens outside the United States was derived from the fact that the United States possessed the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest required it, and to penalize him in case of refusal.