262 U.S. 355 (1923), 404, McCarthy v. Arndstein

Docket Nº:No. 404
Citation:262 U.S. 355, 43 S.Ct. 562, 67 L.Ed. 1023
Party Name:McCarthy v. Arndstein
Case Date:May 21, 1923
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 355

262 U.S. 355 (1923)

43 S.Ct. 562, 67 L.Ed. 1023




No. 404

United States Supreme Court

May 21, 1923

Argued April 11, 1923




1. A disclosure made by a witness not amounting to an actual admission of guilt or of incriminating facts does not deprive him of his privilege of stopping short in his testimony whenever it may fairly tend to incriminate him. P. 358.

2. This rule applies to the involuntary examination of a bankrupt. Id.

3. Where the only issue presented by the marshal's return, or passed upon by the district court in a habeas corpus proceeding was whether the relator, who had been imprisoned for refusal to answer questions propounded in his examination as a bankrupt upon the ground that they might incriminate him, had waived his privilege in that regard, and contentions as to whether some of the questions were such that the answers could not have incriminated him and as to whether his claim of privilege was not in good faith were first made on appeal to this Court from the order of the district court discharging him in the habeas corpus, held that this Court was not called upon to scrutinize the voluminous record of his examination and decide for the first time whether such contentions were justified, especially as the district judge, in the contempt proceeding, had expressed his opinion that answers to the questions might furnish incriminating information. P. 360.


Appeal from an order of the district court discharging the appellee in habeas corpus.

Page 356

SANFORD, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from an order of the district court sustaining a writ of habeas corpus and discharging the appellee from custody. It involves the same proceeding which was before this Court at an earlier stage in Arndstein v. McCarthy, 254 U.S. 71 and 379.

Arndstein, having been adjudicated an involuntary bankrupt and called before a special commissioner for examination as to his assets under Section 21a of the Bankruptcy Act, refused to answer 447 of the questions which were asked him, asserting his constitutional privilege upon the ground that to do so might tend to degrade and incriminate him. The district judge, having "no doubt that the answers might furnish information which would render him liable to prosecutions in the federal courts for concealment of assets," denied a motion to punish him for contempt. After his examination, however, Arndstein filed, without objection, sworn schedules of his assets and liabilities, showing only one item of property, namely, a bank deposit of $18,000. Thereupon, the district judge, being of opinion that Arndstein thus asserted not only that he had this bank deposit, but also that he had no other property, and had thereby become subject to examination as to his property, ordered him to answer 426 of the former questions. Being recalled for further examination, he again refused to answer them, upon the same ground as before. He was then adjudged to be guilty of contempt of court and committed to the custody of the marshal for confinement in jail so long as he persisted in his refusal to answer.

He thereupon presented to the district court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he was restrained of his liberty without due process and in violation

Page 357

of the federal Constitution. This petition was held to be insufficient, and the writ was refused. Upon an appeal by Arndstein, this Court held that as the schedules did not amount to an admission of guilt or furnish clear proof of crime, they did not constitute a waiver of his right to stop short whenever he could fairly claim that to answer might tend to incriminate him, and the order of the district court was accordingly reversed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings in conformity with the opinion. Arndstein v. McCarthy, supra, pp. 72-73. In a supplemental memorandum (p. 379), it was added that this decision only required the district court to issue the writ and proceed as usual, and that, if proper reasons existed for holding Arndstein not shown by the petition, they might be...

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