Cammer v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Pittsburgh Party Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 350 US 399 (1956)
ARGUED: Jan 24, 1956
DECIDED: Mar 12, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Cammer v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 24, 1956 (Part 1) in Cammer v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 24, 1956 (Part 2) in Cammer v. United States

Charles E. Ford:

-- of this Court, the Dennis case, the one -- which are cited in the brief.

And after reading them, he became convinced as was said by this Court in the Dennis case that the preservation of the opportunity to prove actual bias is a guarantee of a defendant's rights to an impartial jury.

And the Court further said that the way is open in every case to raise a contention of bias from the realm of speculation to the realm of facts.

Using as he should, the law is laid down by this Court, the Highest Court in the land, if he was in obedience to what this Court said in those case then indeed he was practicing the highest ethics that any lawyer can conceive of or practice.

Then, he went further, and he read the records and the briefs in two cases that were one in our Court of Appeals of this District, and the other in the District Court, which are known as the Emspak case and the Weinberg case, both of which are cited in the brief.

And he did that for the purpose of determining the appropriate means, whereby, suspected bias might be established as a fact.

He, the petitioner found that the challenge in the Emspak case failed on the ground as urged by the Government that a defendant desiring to challenge the qualifications of government employees as grand jurors was under the duty himself to interview such grand jurors in order to determine whether bias in fact existed before applied to the Court for relief.

And in the absence of such effort and showing, based thereon, he was not entitled to a hearing.

And he found on page 9 of the record of his, and he found as his guide by all the Court of Appeals that the Government had urged on our Court of Appeals on that day in the Emspak case as follows.

This appears in the Government's own brief in that case.

The appellant in this motion was not only asserting that at least eight of the 12 members of the grand jury indicated in this motion were prejudiced and disqualified, but was promising to prove this if he was given an opportunity, “Yet,” says the government, “there is not the slightest indication in the long motion and offer of proof that any attempt has been made to interview a single long of apportions.”

So, in that case, in the Government's brief, my government indicated and complained of the fact that he should have in that case that defendant or his counsel interviewed grand jurors.

Even the Government at that very point sets up and suggests the guy to a lawyer, for it says and complaints about his failure to interview grand jurors.

Then, it went on to say under all of the circumstances that it's clear that the Court acted properly in denying the motion for a hearing in the absence of any reason for appellant, not making his whole showing in the usual form of affidavits.

It can be asserted on this review that the trial judge had exclusive discretion to deny a hearing.

And then, the Government went on again and advised not only your petitioner, but all other lawyers in the practice of law.

And it said, “The appellant was trying to get the Court to make an investigation which the appellant himself had -- should make.”

Now, when Cammer makes what the Government says should have been made, the Government now complains.

Was it not just for the petitioner, Cammer, to use that as a guide, the expression of what the Government of the United States thinks is the proper conduct for a lawyer in this kind of a case?

And then, again, the petitioner further learned in addition to this case and the others I have cited that the same issue was involved in the Weinberg case, and he then, as a lawyer should, investigated, researched and studied the file of that case, the briefs in the memorandums.

And what did he find there as his guide to what means should be adopted to establish the right of a defendant, to establish bias in a grand jury.

He found that in a bench ruling by Judge Kirkland in the Weinberg case, Judge Kirkland upheld the Government's contention that a defendant could not apply for a hearing unless he had first undertaken to contact grand jurors to ascertain preliminarily the existence of bias.

And Judge Kirkland, speaking for the District Court and guiding all lawyers, said, “There is nothing to prevent counsel if he sees fit contacting those 15 members of the grand jury and enquiring on only one subject, whether or not they had any personal bias for the defendant and on that account did they return the indictment.”

That will appear may it please this Court as Exhibit A on page 13 of the record.

Thereupon, in the further step of this lawyer in the exercise of his obligations and duties, he has the District Court telling him that there is nothing in your way to go and contact and interview these grand jurors.

Thereupon, the letter that was used in the Weinberg case and appears in the record, this plaintiff or rather, this petitioner copied that letter verbatim, except of course for the name to which they were addressed.

The petitioner's questionnaire, which is a conduct complained of set forth the same matters that were contained in the Weinberg questionnaire, except that it was more condensed and Weinberg's counsel had sent the letter and the questionnaire for the judge had told him there was nothing to stand in his way of either contacting of grand jurors in a case of this type to establish that particular matter.

Hugo L. Black:

What judge did that?

Charles E. Ford:

That was Judge Kirkland, Your Honor.

Then, after Judge Kirkland had made that direction to the attorney, then Weinberg's counsel filed a second motion.