Knapp v. Schweitzer

RESPONDENT: Schweitzer
LOCATION: West Los Angeles Police Station

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 357 US 371 (1958)
ARGUED: Mar 06, 1958 / Mar 10, 1958
DECIDED: Jun 30, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Knapp v. Schweitzer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 06, 1958 in Knapp v. Schweitzer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 10, 1958 in Knapp v. Schweitzer

Earl Warren:

Number 189, Milton Knapp, Appellant, versus Mitchell D. Schweitzer, Judge of the Court of General Sessions, et al.

Mr. Denzer, you may continue with your arguments.

Richard G. Denzer:

May it please the Court.

Before proceeding to any other aspect of this case, I'd like to touch upon two pages of it which in my opinion made considerable clarification.

One of those is the factual situation and the other is the rather peculiar nature of the petitioner's contention here.

Now as to the facts, this was of course a New York County in New York State grand jury investigation into the question of whether certain labor union representatives had received criminal payments from certain businessmen.

I say criminal, meaning, criminal either by way of extortion or a bribe receiving.

The line between extortion and bribe receiving is sometimes rather thin and was not known precisely what the nature of these payments would be assuming they could be established by the interrogation in the grand jury.

It was pursuant to this investigation that this witness, this petitioner, was called and was asked whether he had made certain of such payments to two union -- labor union representatives named Goldberg and Goldstein.

He refused to answer those questions on the privilege ground and that's why we're here today.

Now, it should be pointed out that this petitioner is not a racketeer and not an underworld character.

He's a businessman.

He was not the target of this investigation.

He was not a prospective defendant here.

He was purely a witness.

The grand jury's and the state prosecutor's purpose, of course, nevertheless to construct a criminal case or criminal charges against this person at all.

That's pretty obviously so because, otherwise, we would not have called him as a witness and offered him complete immunity in our courts from all prosecution for or on account of anything which he might say there.

I also want to stress that there is nothing whatever in this case to support the implication.

In my -- one of the adversary's arguments on Thursday that this case was permeated with federal ramifications.

There wasn't any federal flavor to this grand jury inquiry whatsoever and the word federal has been injected here only by virtue of the argument which has been made in this Court and some of the courts below.

The way the investigation was described by my friend when gathered the impression that the Taft-Hartley law was always a factor here, and that you could almost see a plaque residing it on the grand jury room wall.

And that the federal prosecutor whose office was graphically described as three blocks down the street, whatever difference that might make, was somehow lurking outside the grand jury room ready to pounce upon this witness.

Well, that of course was not the situation at all.

There is no indication whatsoever in this case, no suggestion of any interest by the United States Attorney for the Southern District or any other federal agency of any interest in this petitioner.

And as a matter of fact, this is just a kind of case in which one would be least likely to find an interest by the United States Attorney or the local federal prosecutor of the District because as I've pointed out, this witness is not a target.

He is someone whom we hope to use against the targets, against the labor leaders whom -- whom might be described as prospective defendants and who were actually indicted on other charges.

And any cooperation, so to speak, by the federal prosecutor could certainly not take the form of leaping into the middle of our case and prosecuting one of our witnesses upon whom we were relying upon for evidence against the main targets.

Felix Frankfurter:

Mr. Denzer, may I ask you this question?

Richard G. Denzer:

Yes, Your Honor.

Felix Frankfurter:

Suppose this -- suppose the petitioner had been summoned before a federal grand jury and he was -- had been asked these questions, could he invoke his privilege against self-incrimination?