294 F.2d 708 (D.C. Cir. 1961), 15747, Grumman v. United States

Docket Nº:15747.
Citation:294 F.2d 708
Party Name:Frank GRUMMAN, Appellant v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:June 30, 1961
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Page 708

294 F.2d 708 (D.C. Cir. 1961)

Frank GRUMMAN, Appellant


UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 15747.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

June 30, 1961

Argued Nov. 2, 1960.

Petition for Rehearing Denied Aug. 1, 1961.

Page 709

Mr. David Rein, Washington, D.C., with whom Mr. Joseph Forer, Washington, D.C., was on the brief, for appellant.

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

Before Mr. Justice REED, retired, [*] BAZELON and BASTIAN, Circuit judges.

BASTIAN, Circuit Judge.

Appellant was indicted, tried and convicted of the offense of contempt of Congress because of his refusal to answer a question put to him by a member of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American Activities at hearings held in Washington, D.C., on July 18, 1957.

The Committee on Un-American Activities is a standing committee of the House of Representatives, elected at the commencement of each Congress. 1 The Committee, or any subcommittee thereof, is authorized to investigate '(i) the extent, character, and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (ii) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and that attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (iii) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation.' 2 In Watkins v. United States, 1957, 354 U.S. 178, 77 S.Ct. 1173, 1 L.Ed.2d 1273, the Court said that to enable a congressional investigating committee to compel disclosures from an unwilling witness who objects to a question on grounds of pertinency, an explanation of pertinency is required. 'But as the Watkins opinion recognized, Rule XI is only one of several possible points of reference. The Court in that case said that 'the authorizing resolution, the remarks of the chairman or members of the committee, or even the nature of the proceedings themselves' might reveal the subject under inquiry.' Wilkinson v. United States, 1961, 365 U.S. 399, 81 S.Ct. 567, 572, 5 L.Ed.2d 633. Moreover, in Barenblatt v. United States, 1959, 360 U.S. 109, 79 S.Ct. 1081, 3 L.Ed.2d 1115, and Braden v. United States, 1961, 365 U.S. 431, 81 S.Ct. 584, 5 L.Ed.2d 592, as well as in Wilkinson (all subsequent to Watkins), the Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that the authorization does enable the Committee to act and states further that persons can be convicted of contempt of Congress whenever the Committee's range of inquiry is narrowed to a specific subject matter sufficiently connected with a valid legislative purpose and whenever the witness is apprised of the subject matter of the inquiry and the pertinency of the particular question asked.

It is against this background that we turn to the case before us.

Page 710

The hearings in question were opened on July 17, 1957, at which time the chairman of the subcommittee, Congressman Doyle, stated in pertinent part:

'The committee has long been interested in the situation which exists in the communications industry in the United States, namely, the position and influence held by members of the Communist Party and organizations dedicated to furthering the Communist objective.'

He then read into the record a resolution adopted by the full committee on July 10, 1957, under which the subcommittee was then acting. That resolution authorized hearings

'for the purpose of considering whether or not members of the Communist Party or persons subject to its discipline are employed in various media of communications used in the transmission of vital communications, and the advisability, in the national defense and for internal security, of the adoption of remedial legislation authorizing the Defense Department and other Government agencies to adopt and enforce appropriate regulations designed to protect and preserve inviolate secret and classified Government information, and investing in appropriate Government agencies, power to preclude access to vital communication facilities in time of war or other national emergency, persons who probably will engage in, or probably will conspire with others to engage in, acts of espionage or sabotage.'

Mr. Doyle then continued his own statement, in pertinent part, as follows:

'In these hearings * * * the committee hopes to ascertain the extent of the penetration and control exercised by members of the Communist Party over an industry which is vital to our defense; namely, communications. * * * It is the purpose of the subcommittee in the conduct of these hearings, to discharge the duties placed upon us by the Congress by calling witnesses who, we have reason to believe, possess information...

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