Murphy v. Waterfront Comm'n of N. Y. Harbor

RESPONDENT: Waterfront Comm'n of N. Y. Harbor
LOCATION: Hooper's Restaurant

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 378 US 52 (1964)
ARGUED: Mar 05, 1964
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for Murphy v. Waterfront Comm'n of N. Y. Harbor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 05, 1964 in Murphy v. Waterfront Comm'n of N. Y. Harbor

Earl Warren:

Number 138, William Murphy and John Moody, Sr., Petitioners versus The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.

Mr. Krieger.

Harold Krieger:

Yes Your Honor.

Mr. Chief justice, members of the Court.

I might say I just want to refer to the facts very briefly although we have gone to them in detail in our brief.

In May of 1960, both of these petitioners were subpoenaed before the Waterfront Commission of the New York Harbor, which is a bistate commission having been set up by the statutes of the State of New York and New Jersey and a compact that was approved by Congress for the purpose of investigating Waterfront crime or crime in New York harbor involving interstate and foreign commerce among other things liasioning the individuals to work on the peers.

At the time both of these petitioners were subpoenaed to testify in May of 1960, they were -- the commission was asked for appraisal as to the purpose and they were advised that they were investigating a strike or stoppage.

Counsels for both of these petitioners at that time urged that the commission was without jurisdiction in that preemption applied and the field had been preempted by the federal government.

The commission at that time then proceeded to secure an order of show cause in our State Court, Superior Court why they shouldn't be held of contempt and in the application and in the order of show cause they then alleged and gave the background of the Waterfront Commission, why it had been set up and the various investigations that had taken place in New York and in New Jersey prior to the setting up of this commission and the passage of the statute showing that there had been crimes committed in the state and foreign commerce and there were racketeering and things of that nature, thefts, pilferage, and so forth, and that they had a right to investigate of this particular stoppage in strike because it involved a chief security officer that was employed by the American Export Line.

That was the first general appraisal that these petitioners had that the commission was then seeking to investigate a crime or crimes.

Because prior to that time they were asked by counsels specifically whether or not they were investigating a crime, the answer was they didn't know or whether it was purely a labor dispute.

The petitioners were found guilty by the Superior Court in New Jersey and the decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had held in that case that the field had not been preempted and that the as far as the appraisal was concerned, they were apprised at the time of the trial in a Superior Court of the decision of the Waterfront Commission.

We then sought to appeal and apply for a writ of certiorari petition, or petition of writ of certiorari in this Court had been denied.

Fact is the Supreme Court of State of New Jersey held that the Devo case was dispositive on the issue.

The petitioners were then called back, were then proceeded to go back into the Superior Court to comply with the order and might I say in that contempt they were sentenced to jail until they answered the questions and to pay a $50 fine.

They then proceeded and paid the $50 fine and were directed by the Court to appear before the Waterfront Commission to respond.

They did appear on October 3rd and at that time when they were interrogated, counsel for the petitioners and I represented them there at that time as one of a counsels, we asked specifically for an appraisal, pertinence and we were advised that we were sufficiently apprised in the previous proceedings and that the purpose was the same purpose as heretofore as alleged in the moving papers in the State Courts that they were investigating and these papers indicated investigation of crime and racketeering.

The petitioners then asserted their constitutional rights and statutory rights, and the hearing officer then stated for the purpose of record, some 25 times it appears on that October 3rd date, that he recognized their rights to assert the constitutional privilege and the statutory privilege and the next morning petitioners appeared before the Superior Court and they were purged of the contempt.

The court had held that they had satisfied the order and upon the payment of the fine, which still remained, they were released.

The Waterfront Commission at that time said they didn't want the case to close up because they contended that they wanted to consider whether or not they were going to then grant immunity.

This is also said at the end of the interrogation on October 3rd, so up until that point we had no thought that there was any intention to try to confer some sort of an immunity in this case because of the period clearly in the interrogation on October 3rd, that the Waterfront Commission recognized the use of the constitutional provision here and the statutory provision and fact the Fifth Amendment had been used and also due process was argued at the time on October 3rd.

When it appeared on October 4th --


Harold Krieger:

New Jersey Statute Evidence Act of 1960 and might I say at this moment that New Jersey Evidence Act of 1960 -- Your Honor New Jersey Evidence Act of 1960 specifically provides and is broad.

“A witness may refuse to testify to any matter that can incriminate him as far as the state and the other state or the federal government” and the history of the statute as far as the legislation is concerned, was an indication by the legislature that they were taking into consideration the Hoffman case and they were making the rule as broad as it was intended in the Hoffman case.

When we appeared in -- on October 4th the court had held that these -- as I indicated before that these witnesses had purged themselves of contempt and when the Waterfront Commission has said well we would like to consider whether or not we are going to grant immunity here, the court said specifically I am not concerned with what you may do that maybe another matter, these people have met the order of the court and they are discharged.

We read in the papers shortly thereafter that they were going to grant some sort of immunity and then we proceeded to apply for a quashing of the subpoena, well we read this in the paper because we felt at that time there could be no such thing as immunity under these circumstances.

Before the return, they have notice to motion for the quashing of the subpoena that Waterfront Commission had ordered the petitioner to appear.

Well, they found themselves to be twitched in between, so we appeared, petitioners appeared and then they had some sort of a new form of hearing, it was a public hearing.