In re Sawyer

LOCATION: Fargo, North Dakota

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 622 (1959)
ARGUED: May 19, 1959 / May 20, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for In re Sawyer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 20, 1959 in In re Sawyer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 19, 1959 in In re Sawyer

Earl Warren:

Number 326, in the matter of disciplinary proceedings against Harriet Bouslog Sawyer, Petitioner.

Mr. McTernan.

John T. McTernan:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

We are hereby in certiorari to the Ninth Circuit which affirmed a judgment of the Territorial Supreme Court of Hawaii suspending petitioner, a lawyer, from the practice of law for a period of one year, by virtue of the rules of the local court that suspension is tantamount to disbarment because she cannot get back without taking another examination and passing the character test and I quote from the rule, "As an applicant for admission".

The conduct upon which the matter was tried in the Territorial Court involved two incidents, one was a public speech given in a little hamlet called Honokaa over on the Island of Hawaii.

And the second was a series of interviews of a trial juror after the case in which that juror had served -- had closed and the jury had been dismissed.

Let me -- I will discuss the facts in each of those --

How long -- how long after the trial jurors (Inaudible) would take place?

John T. McTernan:

Five or six days, Your Honor.


John T. McTernan:

Approximately that.

We contend that the findings of gross misconduct --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

What I ask is that -- there's no question the jury has been discharged.

John T. McTernan:

There is no question about that, Your Honor.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Not waiting service with another -- another case.

John T. McTernan:

This juror had served 10 months, Your Honor, in one case and he was dismissed for good.

We contend that the findings with reference to the Honokaa speech are arbitrary and that the discipline imposed upon her involves an infringement of her rights under the First Amendment.

She was found to have impugned the integrity of the trial judge in the remarks that where attributed to her.

Before getting into the details of our argument on that, let me just give you this much background.

Counsel and her firm -- I mean petitioner and her firm were counsel for the ILWU, the dominant labor force in the island.

And the regional director of that organization along with six others was indicted for conspiracy to violate the Smith Act in a case called United States against Fujimoto.

Petitioner was a counsel of record in that case and had been from a day or two after the indictment had been returned.

She was counsel for this regional director whose name was Jack Hall.

The trial had been under way for approximately six weeks at the time of the speech.

And during those six weeks, the Court had her testimony from a witness named Paul Crouch, one of the three perjurious witnesses referred to in an opinion of this Court in Communist Party against SACB.

This man had told a story about galloping over the Russian steppes in 1927 at a time when defendant in the Fujimoto case, Jack Hall, was 14 years old and another defendant was four years old.

And there had been a series of objections and motions to strike with reference to that testimony, and the testimony had been admitted subject to connection and subject to later a motion.

They had also been contentions made to the Court in Fujimoto that the trial should not be held because of the adverse climate of public opinion and similar matters.

Now, the union had set out a defense committee which was doing the job of raising money for the defense, Jack Hall and other people who might be caught in the then political prosecutions that where going on both in Hawaii and elsewhere.

And this Committee called the Union Defense Committee sponsored the meeting at Honokaa at which petitioner gave her speech.