United States v. Witkovich

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)

CITATION: 353 US 194 (1957)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1957
DECIDED: Apr 29, 1957

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Witkovich

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1957 (Part 1) in United States v. Witkovich

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1957 (Part 2) in United States v. Witkovich

-- I would like to reserve it for rebuttal.

Earl Warren:

Ms. Hart.

Pearl M. Hart:

If the Court please.

I would like to say at the threshold that it is all together likely that this case would not be before Your Honors and I would not be here this afternoon if I had advised my client to plead the Fifth Amendment in relation to the questions which were asked of him.

But the integrity of the client and devotion to the proper administration of the law did not permit us to indulge in any subterfuges.

And therefore, whatever answers we refuse to give, our position was that the questions were in violation of our rights under the First Amendment and also that the questions were not pertinent to any issue.

And we feel that we have a complete right to protection for ourselves under the First Amendment just as much as we have under any other amendment to the Constitution.

I would like to say too that briefly on the question of the right of supervision because that's the point, I think, in which we left that the kind of supervision attempted here would be all together feudal under almost any circumstances that we can conceive.

For instance, if this defendant, when called upon by the person in the Naturalization Service, had bared his life completely from the cradle to the present time and had told all about himself, and nevertheless said, "Yes, I still am a member of the Communist Party and I still go to meetings of the Communist Party."

What assistance would that had been to the Attorney General in the so-called supervision or what could the Attorney General have done having that information before him?

On the other hand, suppose the defendant had taken the position that he refused to answer on the basis of the Fifth Amendment, how would the Attorney General have been assisted in this so-called supervision of the defendant.

In neither event, would anything happen then, it would have been a feudal act as far as the order supervision is concerned.

And while that should not be determinative of the entire proposition, nevertheless, on the mere argument of the supervision, it gets the Court nowhere in my opinion.

Another matter to which I want to call your attention preliminarily is this, that there is nothing in the indictment and the indictment has to be considered, I believe, by this Court from its four corners.

There's nothing in the indictment which has any reference at all to Communist Party membership or engaging in Communist and activities.

It is a general indictment which says that the defendant who is then and there and the alien against whom an order of deportation had issued and been outstanding for more than six months, which said order of deportation was then and there, a final order having become final on a certain day and who is the project from the United States under the order of deportation had not been affected with in such six-month period and who was then and there pending eventual deportation subject to supervision was required to come in and answer questions, et cetera and he refused to answer the following questions.

Now, are we to assume, and I'm not making a great point over because I suppose you might as well meet the whole situation squarely, are we to assume from this that all of these matters in relation to Communist Party activity are pertinent to this particular kind of an indictment because there's nothing in it.

Now then, they proceed to give the questions which it was said he refused to answer.

And the first question you will notice is, "Do you subscribe to the Daily Worker?"

I would like to tell you, and that does happened to be part of the record, that the question which immediately preceeded it was, "Do you rate the Chicago Daily Tribune?"

Well, of course, we objected to answering that under the First Amendment just the same as we objected to answering in regard to the Daily Worker.

However, we're not being embedded for not answering as to whether we read the Daily Tribune or not.

All of these questions -- I think there are 22 questions contained in the indictment which we --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Can I ask in part whether --

Pearl M. Hart:


William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Any other that you refused to answer that demand -- are the substantive methods to --

Pearl M. Hart:

Yes, I believe there are.

I --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

They -- they --

Pearl M. Hart:

-- I can't point them out at this moment unless I go through the entire series of questions, Your Honor.