280 F.2d 689 (D.C. Cir. 1960), 13656, Watson v. United States

Docket Nº:13656.
Citation:280 F.2d 689
Party Name:Goldie E. WATSON, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:June 18, 1960
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Page 689

280 F.2d 689 (D.C. Cir. 1960)

Goldie E. WATSON, Appellant,


UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 13656.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

June 18, 1960

Argued Feb. 1, 1960.

Page 690

Mr. David Rein, Washington, D.C., with whom Mr. Leonard B. Boudin, New York City, was on the brief, for appellant.

Miss Doris H. Spangenburg, Asst. U.S. Atty., for appellee.

Messrs. Oliver Gasch, U.S. Atty., Carl W. Belcher, Lewis Carroll, William Hitz, and Harold D. Rhynedance, Jr., Asst. U.S. Attys., were on the brief for appellee.

Mr. John D. Lane, Asst. U.S. Atty., also entered an appearance for appellee.

Before WASHINGTON, BASTIAN and BURGER, Circuit Judges.

WASHINGTON, Circuit Judge.

This is a contempt of Congress case, under Section 192 of Title 2 of the U.S.C.A. Appellant, after a trial before a judge sitting without a jury, was convicted and sentenced. This appeal followed. 1

The record shows that appellant appeared before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. After stating her name and occupation, she refused to answer five questions propounded to her, the first of these being 'Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?' She replied: 'I will not answer any other question I am asked about membership in organizations, associations, societies, people I have met with, or anything else.' She explained that such questions in her view were 'in violation of my constitutional rights,' and that she particularly relied on the First Amendment. Four more questions were asked, along similar lines to the first, receiving a similar response from appellant. The indictment was in five counts, specifying refusal to answer the five questions. She was found guilty on all counts.

No attempt was made by the subcommittee or its counsel to explain to appellant the basis for asking these questions, the nature and scope of the subcommittee's inquiry, or the pertinency of these questions to the inquiry. The Chairman simply said that the hearing was being held as a continuation of one held some months earlier. There is no showing that appellant was apprised of (or knew) the nature of these earlier hearings, or that the subject matter under inquiry on the day she appeared was conveyed to her in any fashion. 'Knowledge of the subject to which the interrogation is deemed pertinent * * *...

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