DeGregory v. Attorney General of New Hampshire

RESPONDENT: Attorney General of New Hampshire
LOCATION: Belknap County Recreation Area

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 383 US 825 (1966)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1966
DECIDED: Apr 04, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for DeGregory v. Attorney General of New Hampshire

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1966 in DeGregory v. Attorney General of New Hampshire

Earl Warren:

Number 396, Hugo DeGregory, Appellant, versus Attorney General of the State of New Hampshire.

Mr. Whiteside.

Howard S. Whiteside:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case arises on an appeal from a decision of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire which affirmed a decision of the Superior Court of New Hampshire, ordering the appellant in this case committed to jail for one year or until he purge himself for a civil contempt.

Involved is a statute of New Hampshire which is quoted on page 2 of my brief, Chapter 588, Section 8 (a) which is part of the New Hampshire Subversive Activities Act.

And the first sentence says, “At any time when the Attorney General has information which he deems reasonable or reliable relating to violations of the provisions of this Chapter, he shall make full and complete investigation thereof and shall report to the general court for results of this investigation together with his recommendations, if any, for legislation.”

This case originated in November of 1963.

You recall the statute, I just read says, if the Attorney General has information -- reasonable and reliable information concerning violations of the statute.

Now, what triggered the start of this investigation in November of 1963 was no new evidence of subversive activities in New Hampshire.

No sudden reappearance of the Communist Party of New Hampshire.

What triggered it was that Hugo DeGregory, the appellant in this case came into the Superior Court in New Hampshire and purged himself of contempt in a previous proceeding by answering in the negative the question, “Are you presently a member of the Communist Party?”

So, he left the court a freeman and two days later, the Attorney General issued a subpoena to have him appear for further investigation.

I have referred to the previous proceeding here.

The New Hampshire Subversive Activities Act was passed in 1951.

In 1953, a temporary statute permitting investigation by the Attorney General was adopted which not only provided that he might investigate as to violations of the chapter but provided that he might investigate as to the presence of subversive persons within the State of New Hampshire.

This was continued in 1955.

In 1957, the legislature adopted the present statute which dropped the clause about the presence of subversive persons in New Hampshire and reads as I read it to this Court.

The previous statute was involved in the cases of Sweezy versus New Hampshire and Wyman versus Uphaus both of which came to this Court.

The present statute was involved in the previous DeGregory case, DeGregory versus the Attorney General of New Hampshire which was decided without argument per curiam by this Court, 368 U.S. 19 with four justices dissenting.

Now -- and thereby upheld a New Hampshire decision saying that the Act was constitutional on its face and constitutional as applied to the facts in that case.

So as a result, I did not argue below the constitutionality of the statute on its face, although, it would be open to this Court to reconsider it if it so wanted.

My argument was based on whether the construction court on the statute by the New Hampshire courts went so far as to deny to appellant his rights under the United States Constitution, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

And so when he was summoned or let me interject this.

This case depends very much on the facts, the law has been cited, the cases have been cited which are very familiar to you, Sweezy, Uphaus, Watkins, Wilkinson, Braden, Barenblatt.

They're all cited in the briefs and it seems to me that it is more profitable to determine on the facts of this case, what is the applicable law?

Now, I might also advert to the fact that I have cited cases and among the cases which I already spoke off, some of those also say it but on page 13 of my brief, I've quoted two recent United States Supreme Court cases.

Where there is a significant encroachment upon personal liberty, the State may prevail only upon showing a subordinating interest which is compelling, Bates versus Little Rock.

And again, the decisions of this Court have consistently held that only a compelling state interest in the regulation of the subject in justified limiting First Amendment freedoms.

So, I turn to the start of this proceeding before the Attorney General and --

Potter Stewart:

The -- those quotations you read by the duty of this Court to balance, is that right?