Dennis v. United States

PETITIONER: Raymond Dennis et al.
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 384 US 855 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1966
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1966

Facts of the case

Raymond Dennis and others were members of the Communist Party; they were also officers and members of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. They filed false affidavits between 1949 and 1955 to satisfy the stipulations of 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, which required all union officers to submit non-Communist affidavits. The union officials retained their Communist Party affiliations, filed the affidavits, and enabled the union to use the services of the National Labor Relations Board. The union officers were indicted by the United States District Court for conspiracy to fraudulently obtain the services of the National Labor Relations Board.


  1. Does the indictment charge a conspiracy to defraud the United States Government consistent with 18 U.S.C. 371? 2. Is section 9(h) of the Taft- Hartley Act a bill of attainder in violation of Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution? 3. Did the trial court err in denying the defense's request for access to grand jury testimony of prosecution witnesses or in camera inspection of the testimony?

Media for Dennis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1966 in Dennis v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 502, Raymond Dennis et al., Petitioner, versus United States.

General Taylor.

Telford Taylor:

Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals the Tenth Circuit and it involves appeals from judgments of conviction for the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States under the appropriate clause of the General Federal Conspiracy Statute, 18 U.S. Code 371.

Now the nature of the unlawful conduct which this case involves arises out of Section 9 (h) of the old Taft-Hartley law enacted in 1947.

That Act was to be sure, repelled in 1959 and its successor, Section 504 of the Labor Management Act is the statute that Your Honors reviewed in the Archie Brown case last year.

But the indictment here antedates that repealer and that is why it is arising under the old law.

The old law, Section 9 (h) was before this Court in appropriate proceedings to test constitutionality in the Douds case and thereafter, there were various cases involving prosecutions for filing false affidavits, the Jencks case, the Travis case and various others that who've been here.

So I take it that the Court is generally familiar with the structure of that law which required that officers of labor unions file affidavits denying that they were members of or affiliated with the Communist Party as a precondition for a compliance status on the part of the union of which they were officers.

That Section 9 (h) incorporated as a sanction for filing false affidavits, the general federal statute known as the False Statements Act, 18 U.S. Code 1001.

So that the penalty for the false affidavits is that general criminal provision rather than any peculiar provision of the Taft-Hartley law itself.

Potter Stewart:

And most of -- most if not all of the previous and other prosecutions other than this case had been brought under that statute, isn't it?

Telford Taylor:

They have indeed.

This is the -- there have been two conspiracy prosecutions Mr. Justice Stewart.

One in the West case in which certiorari was denied here and this is the other one.

This is the only other case in which a conspiracy to violate the false affidavit provisions has been charged.

Now the petitioners here are or they were at the time of the acts charged, officers and employees of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers which referred to in the briefs for aviation purposes as Mine, Mill.

And the gist of the charge against them is that they conspired -- is that they were at the time, members of the Communist Party, and that they conspired with each other that those among them who were officers would file false affidavits, false in that they denied Communist membership when in fact they were members and thereby obtained compliance status.

I should add that of the six petitioners here at the time of these circumstances, four only were officers and actually filed affidavits.

The other two were employees not required to file affidavits but charged as co-conspirators along with the four who did the actual filing.

These convictions were affirmed by the -- the trial was in the District of Colorado, the convictions were affirmed by the Court of Appeals the Tenth Circuit.

We filed a petition for certiorari on a number of grounds.

The grant of certiorari was limited to three questions; the first being the statutory sufficiency of the indictment, that is to say whether the allegations in the indictment sufficiently make out a charge of conspiracy-to-defraud.

Secondly, the constitutionality of Section 9 (h), which indeed had been sustained in Douds but which as we suggested in our petition, the authority of that case had been at least undermined by Archie Brown and therefore, the question of constitutionality was ripe for reconsideration.

And thirdly, a question not pertaining to indictment but to the trial itself and that is the denial of motions that we made at the trial to have produced the grand jury testimony of government witnesses who testified before the grand jury.

That motion is made in the alternative either for the production direct to us, the defense counsel, or failing that for production to the Court for in camera inspection.

Those motions were denied and that raises the third question, standing generally from the Pittsburgh Plate Glass decision of -- several years ago.

Now the limited grant of certiorari here I think obligates any necessity for any extended statement on the facts in the evidence.

But the Court will see that these cases of a certain age and it may assist a little bit if I indicate what the procedural steps had been and why it now appears here so long after.

The -- under statute repealed seven years ago, the indictment is a 1956, ten years ago and as the indictment shows, the overt acts and the initial affidavits filed here that were alleged to be false were filed as long ago as 1949, the time would be alleged conception of the conspiracy.