Jenkins v. McKeithen

LOCATION: Ohio General Assembly

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)

CITATION: 395 US 411 (1969)
ARGUED: Mar 25, 1969
DECIDED: Jun 09, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Jenkins v. McKeithen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 1969 in Jenkins v. McKeithen

Earl Warren:

Number 548, Roderick Jenkins versus John Julien McKeithen et al.

J. Minos Simon:


Earl Warren:

Very well.

Mr. Simons you may proceed with your argument.

J. Minos Simon:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The case presents for the consideration of the Court, the validity of the state statute enacted by the 1967 legislative session of Louisiana and the issues presented are composed and framed by the pleadings in as much as the lawsuit instituted by the plaintiff was dismissed in connection with a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants in this case.

The decisions relies upon the holding of this Court in the case of Hannah versus Larche which involved an interpretation of the Commission on Civil Rights or the Civil Rights Commission that was enacted by Congress recently and also partly relies upon a decision of the highest court of the State of Louisiana interpreting or given its own interpretation of what this Court held in what is the effect of the particular statute in question.

And that decision was made, rendered in Martone versus Morgan which is before this Court on rehearing.

It's docketed on -- under Number 216 of the 1968 term of the Court.

The plaintiff in substance complains that the Act as a matter of law is unconstitutional and also as administered against him.

The plaintiff alleges that he is a member of a trade union and that the Act in question has been administered discriminatorily against him and members of the union in question resulting in repressive action.

I submit to Your Honors that the Hannah decision did not involve the type of legislation that is involved in the case before you.

And I think perhaps a very quick reference to the essential structure of the Commission that was created by this Act as well as its function we illustrate the point that I am emphasizing at this time.

The Act was passed as an emergency act in the State of Louisiana and apparently resting under the allegation that there were some labor strife in the community of the state capital of Louisiana.

Now, the legislator in the enactment of the statute created what is designated as the Labor Management Commission of Inquiry.

Significantly, this agency or this Commission operates in an ad hoc basis.

It operates only when the Governor of the State demands or request that it operates and it investigates only in that area outlined and delineated by the Governor himself in requesting the investigation.

It's significant to point out that all of the officials of the State Governor from the top to the very bottom, every employee, every agency, every department, every commission are impressed to do cooperative service with the members of this Commission by virtue of the provisions of Section 880.6 sub-paragraph (d).

I should like to also emphasize that the investigative forces of the Commission can be assigned to the state police and during that assignment, they have all the powers of state police.

The Commission itself has endowed itself or has been endowed with plenary powers of subpoena.

It could take depositions anywhere in the United States and also it may compel obedience to its orders through the process of contempt proceedings.

Equally significant is a fact that this Commission expressly does not have any power or authority or jurisdiction to investigate the whole hearings or seek to ascertain the facts or make any reports or recommendations as to any of the strictly civil aspect of any labor problem or dispute.

It is limited exclusively to the -- to investigating and determining the existence of any criminal law violations both of the state and the federal laws that may occur in the area of labor management relations.

Not only this, but it must conduct public hearings as to any such inquiry.

It can conduct or hold executive sessions but then only on the request of one commission member who in his opinion may feel that there may be a defamatory content or incriminatory content to the investigation.

However, it has full powers I stated to bring all witnesses before it, to interrogate these witnesses as to the existence of any crime whether they are of federal or state origin.

These hearings must be public and furthermore, it is charged with the responsibility of making findings and these findings relate to the existence of or probable existence of criminal law violations and also to pronouncing official judgment when individuals who may be involved in the criminal law violation in question relating to labor management offense.

Not only is this Commission under the mandatory duty of making these public findings but in addition to that, this Commission is under the mandatory duty of publicizing these findings.

So that and then furthermore, after it has conducted these public hearings, after they had made these public findings and after there's publicize these public findings, it then becomes its mandatory duty to report its findings and recommendations to “proper federal and state authorities charged of the responsibility for prosecution of criminal offenses."

I submit Your Honors that this piece of legislation establishes a public body that has: one, an accusatory function; two, that it must make and it can make official or pronounced official judgments on individual and that it must publicized both the findings as to the existence or probable existence of criminal conduct and as to the individuals who may be involved and that furthermore, that this is the part of a criminal process.