Yellin v. United States

PETITIONER: Edward Yellin
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Labor Union Protest

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 374 US 109 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1962 / Apr 19, 1962
REARGUED: Dec 06, 1962
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1963

Archibald Cox - Solicitor General, Department of Justice, reargued for the United States
Bruce J. Terris - argued for the United States
Victor Rabinowitz - argued and reargued for the petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Yellin v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1962 in Yellin v. United States
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - December 06, 1962 in Yellin v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1962 in Yellin v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 477, Edward Yellin, Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Rabinowitz, you may proceed with your argument.

Victor Rabinowitz:

May it please the Court.

The petitioner here was convicted of a violation of Section 192 of Title 18 for contempt of Congress for his failure to answer four questions put by a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities at a hearing held in Gary, Indiana in February of 1958.

The alleged subject under inquiry was Communist infiltration at the basic industry and it was the 10th investigation that the Committee has held on that subject.

The petitioner testified in between the Watkins and the Barenblatt decisions of this Court and then refusing to answer the questions put.

He relied on what he conceived to be his rights under the Watkins decision.

He also cited the vagueness of the authorizing resolution, his rights as he conceived them to be under the First Amendment, the lack of jurisdiction of the Committee over the subject of the inquiry.

He did not rely on the Fifth Amendment.

He was not tried until after the Barenblatt decision and he was found guilty on all four counts and received the maximum sentence possible under the statute namely one year in jail.

Prior to the time he testified, he had been a steelworker employed in Gary.

At the time he testified, he was an engineering student at the University of Colorado, subsequently, received a Fourth Foundation grant at the University of Illinois, he's now a candidate for his doctor's degree which I think he will probably receive in June.

Each one of these Section 192 cases come before this -- that come before this Court have tracks which distinguish this -- this case from all of the other cases and I'll state those facts, of course.

But I should like to state in all conduct that the constitutional issues in this case, which I propose to raise again, are indistinguishable from the constitutional issues in Barenblatt, Wilkinson and Braden.

And I propose to urge that the decision of the Court in those cases should be reviewed and should be overruled.

The petitioner was subpoenaed to appear on February 10th, 1958.

On February 6th, prior to the hearing, I, who was representing the petitioner, sent a telegram to the counsel for the Committee reading as follows, "Undersigned represents Edward Yellin and Nicholas Busic.

On their behalf, I request executive session in lieu of open session.

Testimony needed for legislative purposes can be secured in executive session without exposing witnesses to publicity."

This request was made in view of Rule IV (a) of the rules of the Committee which reads as follows, "If a majority of the Committee or Subcommittee, duly appointed as provided by the rules of the House of Representatives, believes that the interrogation of a witness in a public hearing might endanger national security or unjustly injure his reputation or the reputation of other individuals, the Committee shall interrogate such witness in an Executive Session for the purpose of determining the necessity or advisability of conducting such interrogation thereafter at a public hearing."

Potter Stewart:

This witness had never appeared at an executive session, has he?

Victor Rabinowitz:

Had never appeared on executive session, no, sir.

On the same day, I received, in response to my telegram, a telegram signed not by Mr. Tavenner to whom I have addressed my wire but a telegram signed by Mr. Arens, Staff Director, which telegram read as follows, "Reurtel requesting executive session in lieu of open session for Edward Yellin and Nicholas Busic.

Your request denied."

At the hearing in Gary, I sought to introduce these two telegrams into the record.

Congressman Walter who was residing at the hearing refused to accept the telegrams into the record and in the conformity with normal practice at congressional hearings refused to let me say anything.

He testified at the trial, and at that time he stated that he had never seen the telegrams.He had no idea at all as to what was in them.

He said that he thought, and I quote, "They were more or less in the nature of a request to postpone without grounds."

As a matter of fact, he said that he hadn't seen the telegrams until he got on the stand at the trial in Gary two or three years later.

He said all of this was a big misunderstanding that I made a mistake in sending the telegram to Mr. Tavenner, that I should have sent the telegram to him.