340 U.S. 159 (1950), 22, Blau v. United States

Docket NºNo. 22
Citation340 U.S. 159, 71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170
Party NameBlau v. United States
Case DateDecember 11, 1950
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 159

340 U.S. 159 (1950)

71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170

Blau

v.

United States

No. 22

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 11, 1950

Argued November 7, 1950

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. It is a violation of the Fifth Amendment to compel a witness who objects on the ground of self-incrimination to testify before a grand jury in response to questions concerning his employment by the Communist Party or intimate knowledge of its operations when there is in effect a statute such as the Smith Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2385, making it a crime to advocate, or to affiliate with a group which advocates, overthrow of the Government by force. Pp. 159-161 .

2. It is immaterial whether answers to the questions asked would have been sufficient, standing alone, to support a conviction when they would have furnished a link in the chain of evidence needed in a prosecution of the witness for violation of (or conspiracy to violate) the Smith Act. P. 161.

180 F.2d 103, reversed.

Petitioner was adjudged guilty of contempt of court for refusing, on the ground of possible self-incrimination, to answer certain questions before a federal grand jury and later before a federal district court. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 180 F.2d 103. This Court granted certiorari. 339 U.S. 956. Reversed, p. 161.

BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In response to a subpoena, petitioner appeared as a witness before the United States District Court Grand Jury at Denver, Colorado. There, she was asked several

Page 160

questions concerning the Communist Party of Colorado and her employment by it.1 Petitioner refused to answer these questions on the ground that the answers might tend to incriminate her. She was then taken before the district judge, where the questions were again propounded, and where she again claimed her constitutional privilege against self-incrimination and refused [71 S.Ct. 224] to testify. The district judge found petitioner guilty of contempt of court, and sentenced her to imprisonment for one year. The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed. 180 F.2d 103. We granted certiorari because the decision appeared to deny rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.2 The holding below also was in conflict with recent decisions of the Fifth and Ninth Circuits. Estes v. Potter, 183 F.2d 865; Alexander v. United States, 181 F.2d 480.

At the time petitioner was called before the grand jury, the Smith Act was on the statute books making it a crime, among other things, to advocate knowingly the...

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189 practice notes
  • 123 N.W.2d 253 (Mich. 1963), 38, Petition of Vickers
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court of Michigan
    • September 4, 1963
    ...responsive to the possibility of compelling a witness to incriminate himself in a charge of conspiracy. In Blau v. United States (1950), 340 U.S. 159, 71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170, the Supreme Court reversed petitioner's conviction for contempt by refusing to answer grand jury questions regar......
  • 270 Cal.App.2d 613, 33884, Zonver v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
    • United States
    • California California Court of Appeals
    • March 12, 1969
    ...be a strong link in a chain of evidence proving a defendant guilty of a variety of misdemeanors and felonies. (Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170; In re Leavitt, 174 Cal.App.2d 535; Cohen v. Superior Court, 173 Cal.App.2d 61, 68.) Apparently the trial court felt......
  • Pretrial Discovery
    • United States
    • Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases
    • June 23, 2014
    ...needed to prosecute the [respondent] . . . for a crime,” Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486 (1951); see Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 161 (1950); Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449, 461 (1975), or that would provide “‘an investigatory lead,’ [or produce] . . . evidence . . . by ......
  • Ripeness of self-incrimination clause disputes.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 95 Nbr. 4, June 2005
    • June 22, 2005
    ...form or another, appear to be the most common. (34) See, e.g., Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 482 (1951); Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 160-61 (1950); Mason v. United States, 244 U.S. 362, 363-67 (1917); Ballmann v. Fagin, 200 U.S. 186, 195 (1906). (35) See, e.g., Kastigar v......
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183 cases
  • 123 N.W.2d 253 (Mich. 1963), 38, Petition of Vickers
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court of Michigan
    • September 4, 1963
    ...responsive to the possibility of compelling a witness to incriminate himself in a charge of conspiracy. In Blau v. United States (1950), 340 U.S. 159, 71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170, the Supreme Court reversed petitioner's conviction for contempt by refusing to answer grand jury questions regar......
  • 270 Cal.App.2d 613, 33884, Zonver v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
    • United States
    • California California Court of Appeals
    • March 12, 1969
    ...be a strong link in a chain of evidence proving a defendant guilty of a variety of misdemeanors and felonies. (Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170; In re Leavitt, 174 Cal.App.2d 535; Cohen v. Superior Court, 173 Cal.App.2d 61, 68.) Apparently the trial court felt......
  • 106 B.R. 58 (E.D.Pa. 1989), 89-4246, New York City Shoes, Inc. v. Best Shoe Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • September 22, 1989
    ...that would themselves support a conviction for a crime or that would lead to evidence supporting a prosecution for a crime. Blau v. U.S., 340 U.S. 159, 71 S.Ct. 223, 95 L.Ed. 170 (1950). The privilege may only be invoked where the witness has reasonable cause to fear self-incrimination if t......
  • 416 U.S. 21 (1974), 72-985, California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • April 1, 1974
    ...inquiry as to membership in the Communist Party was an incriminating admission protected under the Fifth Amendment. Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159 (1950). The differences then between the posture of the depositor plaintiffs in this case and that of petitioner in Albertson v. SACB, supr......
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6 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases
    • June 23, 2014
    ...United States v., 472 F.2d 1329 (D.C. Cir. 1972), 13.04 Blanks v. State, 406 Md. 526, 959 A.2d 1180 (2008), 33.09 Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159 (1950), 9.12 Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932), 17.08(b)(2), Blocker, United States v., 354 F. Supp. 1195 (D. D.C. 1973), 24.......
  • Ripeness of self-incrimination clause disputes.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 95 Nbr. 4, June 2005
    • June 22, 2005
    ...form or another, appear to be the most common. (34) See, e.g., Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 482 (1951); Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 160-61 (1950); Mason v. United States, 244 U.S. 362, 363-67 (1917); Ballmann v. Fagin, 200 U.S. 186, 195 (1906). (35) See, e.g., Kastigar v......
  • Pretrial Discovery
    • United States
    • Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases
    • June 23, 2014
    ...needed to prosecute the [respondent] . . . for a crime,” Hoffman v. United States, 341 U.S. 479, 486 (1951); see Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 161 (1950); Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449, 461 (1975), or that would provide “‘an investigatory lead,’ [or produce] . . . evidence . . . by ......
  • Questions unanswered: the Fifth Amendment and innocent witnesses.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 93 Nbr. 1, September 2002
    • September 22, 2002
    ...Eng. Rep. 730 (1861). (66) Mason, 244 U.S. at 365-66. (67) Id. (68) BERGER, supra note 8, at 87. (69) MAYERS, supra note 8, at 236. (70) 340 U.S. 159 (1950). (71) Id. at 161. (72) 341 U.S. 479, 481, 490 (1951). (73) Id. at 481. (74) Id. at 482. (75) Id. at 490. (76) Id. at 489. (77) Id. at ......
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