Gojack v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Neshoba County Jail

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

CITATION: 384 US 702 (1966)
ARGUED: Apr 21, 1966
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Gojack v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 1966 in Gojack v. United States

Earl Warren:

John T. Gojack, Petitioner versus United States.

Mr. Donner.

Frank J. Donner:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This case seeks review of a conviction for contempt of Congress under Title 2, Section 192 of the code.

The Congressional Committee involved is the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Petitioner appeared before the House Committee early in 1955.

The case was here before.

In the Russell case, the Court dismissed the indictment in this case and in five others on the ground that the indictments failed to state the matter onto inquiry.

It subsequently reversed convictions in two additional cases on that ground.

I believe this is all of those indicted -- all of those reversed convictions were subsequently re-indicted and I believe this is the sole surviving case.

The others having been dismissed either at the trial or appellate level.

Earl Warren:

The others -- what did you say?

Frank J. Donner:

Having been dismissed either at the trial or appellate level.

The indictment -- our first contention here Your Honor is that the indictment is insufficient because it lacks the specification of authority by the Subcommittee involved to make the investigation here at issue.

This contention has two ingredients.

First the fact of authorization to make the investigation which is a condition of competence and second, the details of the authorization which is a condition of pertinence.

The indictment states that the subject of the hearings was Communist Party activities in the field of labor, and that this was a question within the authority of the Committee, but it does not state that this subject was delegated to the Subcommittee by the full Committee.

The following sources of authority are listed in the indictment for the hearing.

First the Legislative Reorganization Act which is a full description of the entire Committee's authority.

Second, the House Resolution 5 which is the implementation of the 84th Congress of the full authority of the Committee.

Third, an action of the Committee appointing a Subcommittee but not designating the purpose for which it was appointed.

Fourth, a resolution of January 20th, 1955 about a month before this hearing took place, granting the Chairman authority who appoints Subcommittees to cover whatever the Committee itself could investigate and fifth, the grant of a continuance of a hearing from February 8th to February 28th again without any statement of the subject committed to the Subcommittee.

It appears, and I don't think there's any dispute about this, that the subject under inquiry as referred to in the indictment is merely the Subcommittee Chairman's announcement at the hearing at which petitioner appeared.

Finally, I should also point out that there is no allegation in the indictment that the Subcommittee itself decided to undertake this investigation.

In the Lamont case, Chief Justice Clark -- Chief Judge Clark held that the indictment under Section 192 involving a subcommittee must allege the authority of a Subcommittee to conduct an investigation into the subject claimed to be under inquiry.

And that conversely, a reliance on the authority to the parent Committee was insufficient to show competence.

Judge Clark added that and I quote now.

“The result might well be different were this a case of a Committee created by Congress to hold hearings for a specific purpose, with the inquiry in question apparently falling within the assigned purpose” and there is a CF citation to the Josephson case and the Josephson case of course did involve a House Committee hearing.

The Lamont case involved a permanent -- the permanent investigation Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

It was followed in the Second Circuit by the Seeger case, which was decided three days before this Court decided Russell and it ruled that a much more explicit indictment than is present here was defective because it had failed properly to allege the authority of the Subcommittee to conduct the hearings in issue.