United States v. Welden

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Welden
LOCATION: Alabama State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 235
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 377 US 95 (1964)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1964
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1964

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Welden

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1964 in United States v. Welden

Earl Warren:

Number 235, United States, Appellant, versus William C. Welden.

Mr. Seibel.

Irwin A. Seibel:

May it please the Court.

This is a direct appeal from a judgment of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts, dismissing an indictment on the ground that appellee had obtained immunity by virtue of testimony he gave before a congressional subcommittee.

The issue on this appeal is whether a person testifying before a congressional subcommittee is testifying in a preceding suit or prosecution under the antitrust laws and thereby obtains immunity under the 1903 Act applicable here with respect to all matters covered by his testimony.

Appellee is a member of the senior board of executives of H.P. Hood & Sons, a processor and distributor of milk and dairy products from the New England area.

He's also in charge of three of its departments, government relations, economic research and purchasing.

In February 1960, he was subpoenaed to testify before a Special Subcommittee of the House Select Committee on Small Business.

The House Select Committee had been authorized by a House Resolution to study and investigate the problems of small business and its Chairman had appointed a special subcommittee to look into the problems of small business in the dairy industry.

On February 18, 1960, appellee appeared with his counsel in Boston before the Special Subcommittee and gave testimony.

During the course of his testimony at no time did he claim his privilege against self-incrimination, although we recognize that such a claim was unnecessary if this were a proceeding, a hearing before a congressional committee, were a proceeding to which the statute in question were applicable.

Appellee's testimony contained --

Potter Stewart:

In other words, if the statute is applicable -- if this is a proceeding --

Irwin A. Seibel:

Precisely.

Potter Stewart:

-- it's not necessary to make the claim or the privilege in order to -- for the immunity to become an operative procedure.

Irwin A. Seibel:

That's right, sir.

Right.

It's automatic (Inaudible)

Irwin A. Seibel:

Yes, Your Honor.

In other words the (Inaudible).

Irwin A. Seibel:

No, Your Honor, this Court in the Monia case which we have cited in our brief so held.

(Inaudible)

Irwin A. Seibel:

Yes, Your Honor.

Appellee's testimony contained no admission of wrongdoing but it bore a sufficient relationship to the matters covered by the indictment so that if this were a proceeding to which the statute is applicable, such as a grand jury proceeding for example, appellee would have obtained immunity.

So, the problem on this appeal, Your Honors, is whether a hearing before a congressional committee is the kind of proceeding to which the immunity provision here in question is applicable.

In April 1962, an indictment was returned against appellee, his company and others, charging the violation of the Sherman Act and of the conspiracy statute.

The indictment charged the defendants with, among other things, with price fixing and of engaging in collusive bidding for contract awards from federal state and municipal institutions.

Appellee moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that he had -- he had obtained immunity by virtue of his testimony before the congressional committee.

The District Court granted his motion and dismissed the indictment as to appellee.

It held that a hearing before a congressional committee is a proceeding under the antitrust laws within the meaning of the statute here in question and that therefore appellee had obtained immunity.