280 F.2d 696 (D.C. Cir. 1960), 13734, Knowles v. United States

Docket Nº:13734.
Citation:280 F.2d 696
Party Name:Mary KNOWLES, 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 696

280 F.2d 696 (D.C. Cir. 1960)

Mary KNOWLES, Appellant,


UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 13734.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

June 18, 1960

Argued March 21, 1960.

Page 697

Mr. Henry W. Sawyer, III, of the bar of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, pro hac vice, Philadelphia, Pa., by special leave of court, with whom Mr. George Herbert Goodrich, Washington, D.C., was on the brief, for appellant.

Mr. William Hitz, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Messrs. Oliver Gasch, U.S. Atty., Carl W. Belcher, Lewis Carroll and Miss Doris H. Spangenburg, Asst. U.S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellee.

Before WASHINGTON, BASTIAN and BURGER, Circuit Judges.

WASHINGTON, Circuit Judge.

This is a contempt of Congress case, under 2 U.S.C.A. § 192. Tried by the District Court, a jury having been waived, appellant was found guilty on 52 counts of an indictment charging her with refusal to answer certain questions put to her by a Senate Subcommittee. 1 She has appealed from the judgment of conviction. 2 In this court, the Government has abandoned some of the counts of the indictment. It now claims that appellant was properly convicted under Count 1 of failing to answer the question 'Did you, or do you, know Herbert Philbrick?' at a hearing held on July 29, 1955, and under some 27 other counts for failing to answer certain questions at a hearing held on September 15, 1955.

In convicting appellant on these counts, the trial judge found that the questions contained therein were pertinent to the subject under inquiry and that appellant 'was fully apprised' of that subject. It appears that the trial judge believed the Committee was investigating 'the Communist movement in New England,' and that he considered she was sufficiently apprised of the subject because the Committee was not obliged 'to proceed in the execution of its duties by a series of inquiries on precise topics embraced within the express subject matter delegated to it by the enabling resolutions.' Appellant argued at trial and continues to urge that neither the subject under inquiry nor the pertinency of the questions was indisputably clear at the time of the Committee hearings.

The facts, briefly, are these: Appellant had on two earlier occasions, in 1953, appeared before the same Subcommittee. She was at that time advised by the Subcommittee that one Herbert Philbrick had, at a previous hearing, identified her as a member of the Communist Party. Appellant was then asked questions concerning Mr. Philbrick and others, and refused to answer by reason of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination. After the 1953 hearings, appellant was discharged from her position as a librarian in Norwood, Massachusetts, but obtained similar employment at a library maintained by a Quaker group in Pennsylvania.

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That group became subject to considerable pressure in the community to dismiss appellant from her position as librarian. It resisted this pressure, and was later presented with an award of $5,000 by the Fund for the Republic for the stand it had taken.

After these occurrences, which aroused much public interest, appellant was called again before the Subcommittee, appearing on July 29, 1955. At this hearing, no statement was made as to the Subcommittee's purpose in calling her, or as to the subject matter of the inquiry. The questions asked were of the same general nature as those appellant had refused to answer at the 1953 hearing, together with some concerning the events of the intervening years. When asked the Count 1 question ('Did you, or do you, know Herbert Philbrick?'), appellant replied:

'On this matter of acquaintances or nonacquaintances, or anything to do with Communist affiliations or nonaffiliations, I would like to tell the committee here what I have told my employers at the Plymouth Meeting Library Committee, that...

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