Sugden et ux. v. United States

PETITIONER: Robert Sugden and Jean Sugden
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION:

DOCKET NO.: 555
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT:

ARGUED: Apr 25, 1956
DECIDED: Apr 30, 1956

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Sugden et ux. v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1956 (Part 1) in Sugden et ux. v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1956 (Part 2) in Sugden et ux. v. United States

Earl Warren:

Mr. Wilmer, you may proceed.

Mark Wilmer:

May it please the Court.

I think I would like to make it plain at the outset that the only reference to monitoring which is found in the statute is that provision which authorizes the Commission to spend money to acquire stations for monitoring purposes.

That ends the reference to the authority of the Commission to monitor the extent of that authority and the purposes for which it may monitor.

Now, from that the Commission draws a broad power to supervise all communications.

From that, it would draw the broad the power to listen in on every conversation for any purpose.

We say it is just as reasonable because in that same statute, which gives the Commission the authority to buy stations or to maintain monitoring stations that gives them the authority to employ lawyers and buy law books.

If the mere authority to buy something means that it is to be used without limitation.

We say that by like analogy since it has the authority to buy law books and employ lawyers, it can go into a business of running a Court or it can go into a business of practicing law because, simply, the authority to buy law book and to employ a lawyer, there you have a physical setup for a full blown court.

By like analogy, we say that in our part of the country anyway we have what we call "junior patrols" who are at schools for the purpose of slowing down speeders and so on, they are -- a nature of a public relations matter of -- of controlling traffic.

They are authorized to use police whistles.

So, we say that if the legislature gives them the authority to use the police whistle by like analogy, they have the authority to become a complete police officer.

So, it is our position, if it please the Court, that before -- before such an abrupt and far reaching departure should be read into the Communications Act as it is here contended for the Government, it should clearly appear in there.

It should appear that the Congress had that in mind to give them this general broad supervision which they are claiming.

And I say, if it please the Court, that you can read the Communications Act from one end to the other and all you can find in it is a negativing of that authority.

As I have previously demonstrated, the only reports which they are supposed to give a better investigations are to the parties infected.

In the statute which does for what purposes they may revoke a license, it specifically limits that authority to violation of a act treaty or convention binding upon the United States and which

Sherman Minton:

You take --

Mark Wilmer:

-- the Commission is authorized.

Sherman Minton:

You take the position that the Federal Communications Commission is got to have authority of Congress before it could monitor?

Mark Wilmer:

I say this, Your Honor, that in the face of Section 605, it's got to have some pretty specific --

Sherman Minton:

That's the question of divulging what it learns.

Mark Wilmer:

Oh, I -- I tried to go that --

Sherman Minton:

I'm talking about the -- the monitoring, listening in.

Mark Wilmer:

Well, Your Honor --

Sherman Minton:

You wouldn't have to have any authority for Congress to do that, would be?

Mark Wilmer:

No one would have -- to have any authority from Congress to do that.

No one has to have any authority to listen in.

The sole prohibition is against divulgence and I assume that when the Congress drew the statute, they do it thoughtfully and carefully and I assume it employed words for a specific purpose and have a specific meaning so that for the purpose of monitoring and I assume that it is for the sole purpose of testing frequencies and of testing power and of ascertaining if there are unlicensed stations because the Congress specifically forbad to the Commission the authority to censor, specifically spelled out that nothing in the act should be construed to give the Commission the authority to censor.

Felix Frankfurter:

May I go back to Justice Minton's question in your answer?