357 U.S. 371 (1958), 189, Knapp v. Schweitzer

Docket Nº:No. 189
Citation:357 U.S. 371, 78 S.Ct. 1302, 2 L.Ed.2d 1393
Party Name:Knapp v. Schweitzer
Case Date:June 30, 1958
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 371

357 U.S. 371 (1958)

78 S.Ct. 1302, 2 L.Ed.2d 1393




No. 189

United States Supreme Court

June 30, 1958

Argued March 6, 10, 1958



Subpoenaed before a state grand jury which was conducting an inquiry regarding violations of state laws, petitioner refused to answer certain questions on the ground of possible self-incrimination. After being granted under a state statute immunity from state prosecution and being ordered by a state court to answer, petitioner persisted in his refusal on the ground that to answer the questions might expose him to federal prosecution for violation of a federal statute. For such refusal, he was convicted in the state court of contempt, and sentenced to fine and imprisonment.

Held: his conviction did not violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment, which limits only the powers of the Federal Government, and not those of the States. Pp. 372-381.

(a) To sustain petitioner's contention that, because Congress has made certain conduct a federal crime, the Fifth Amendment enables him to assert against a State Government the privilege against giving testimony that might tend to implicate him in a violation of the federal statute would disregard the historic distribution of power in our federal system between the Federal Government and the States. Pp. 374-377.

(b) Though the Fourteenth Amendment did impose some restrictions upon the States in the making and enforcement of criminal laws, it did not fundamentally change the great division of powers between the Federal Government and the States in the enforcement of the criminal law. P. 378.

(c) The right of the States, as a means of investigating and discovering corruption and misconduct which violate state laws, to require full disclosure in exchange for immunity of a witness from state prosecution cannot be denied on the ground that it may expose the witness to prosecution under federal law. Pp. 378-379.

(d) The sole purpose of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is the security of the individual against exertion of the power of the Federal Government to compel incriminating testimony with a view to enabling the Federal Government to convict him out of his own mouth. Pp. 379-380.

2 N.Y.2d 913,, 975,141 N.E.2d 825,142 N.E.2d 649, affirmed.

Page 372

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner is a partner in a New York manufacturing firm engaged in interstate commerce, some of whose employees have been organized by a local union of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Petitioner was subpoenaed to appear before a New York grand jury conducting an inquiry regarding bribery of labor representatives, conspiracy and extortion, constituting crimes under state law. Petitioner, duly sworn, was asked a question concerning the union's representation in certain wage negotiations with petitioner's firm; he refused to answer on the ground that his answer might tend to incriminate him. The grand jury then granted petitioner immunity from prosecution, applying N.Y. Penal Law, McKinney's Consol.Laws, c. 40, §§ 381, [78 S.Ct. 1304] 2447, which provides that one duly granted immunity

shall not be prosecuted or subjected to any penalty or forfeiture for or on account of any transaction, matter or thing concerning which, in accordance with the order by competent authority, he gave answer or produced evidence, and that no such answer given or evidence produced shall be received against him upon any criminal proceeding.

§ 2447(2). Having been thus granted immunity, petitioner was directed to answer the question. He again refused to do so on the ground of possible self-incrimination.

In a subsequent appearance before the grand jury, petitioner was asked, and was directed to answer by the foreman, fourteen other questions concerning relations

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and transactions between petitioner and union officials. Petitioner again invoked the privilege against self-incrimination. On application of the foreman of the grand jury, respondent Schweitzer, as judge of a New York Court of General Sessions, ordered petitioner to return to the grand jury and make answer to the questions put to him.

After further refused to answer, petitioner was once more ordered to appear before respondent Schweitzer; when he did so, the respondent district attorney moved that petitioner be punished for contempt of court. In opposition to this application, petitioner stood on his refusal to answer inasmuch as the immunity granted by the grand jury did not protect him against federal prosecution. Respondent Schweitzer adjudged petitioner in contempt of court and sentenced him to serve thirty days in jail and to pay a fine of $250. People v. Knapp, 4 Misc.2d 449, 157 N.Y.S.2d 820.

Petitioner applied to the Supreme Court of New York for reversal of the contempt conviction and for an order prohibiting respondents from proceeding further in the matter. He alleged that his danger of self-incrimination was attributable to the prosecutorial potentialities of § 302 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 61 Stat. 136, 157, 29 U.S.C. § 186, making it unlawful

for any employer to pay or deliver, or to agree to pay or deliver, any money or other thing of value to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce

(§ 302(a)), and to the fact that the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York had

made public announcement of his intention to cooperate with the [respondent] District Attorney . . . in the prosecution of criminal cases in the field of the subject matter out of which petitioner's commitment arose.

The petition for

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reversal of the contempt conviction was denied by the Supreme Court; this judgment was unanimously affirmed in the Appellate Division, 2 A.D.2d 579, 157 N.Y.S.2d 158, and, without opinion, by the Court of Appeals of New York, 2 N.Y.2d 913, 161 N.Y.S.2d 437, 141 N.E.2d 825, which duly amended its remittitur to show that it had passed on and rejected petitioner's claim of a privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment, 2 N.Y.2d 975, 162 N.Y.S.2d 613, 142 N.E.2d 649. We granted certiorari, 355 U.S. 804, to consider this constitutional question.

Petitioner does not claim that his conviction of contempt for refusal to answer questions put to him in a state proceeding deprived him of liberty or property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; that such a claim is without merit was settled in Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78. His contention is, rather, that, because the Congress of the United States has in the exercise of its constitutional powers made certain conduct unlawful, [78 S.Ct. 1305] the Fifth Amendment gives him the privilege, which he can assert against either a State or the National Government, against giving testimony that might tend to implicate him in a violation of the federal act.1 Because of the momentum of adjudication whereby doctrine expands from case to case, such a claim carries dangerous implications. It may well lead to the contention that, when Congress enacts a statute carrying criminal sanctions, it has, as a practical matter, withdrawn from the States their traditional power to investigate in aid of prosecuting conventional state

Page 375

crimes, some facts of which may be entangled in a federal offense. To recognize such a claim would disregard the historic distribution of power as between Nation and States in our federal system.

The essence of a constitutionally formulated federalism is the division of political and legal powers between two systems of government constituting a single Nation. The crucial difference between federalisms is in a wide sweep of powers conferred upon the central government with a reservation of specific powers to the constituent units as against a particularization of powers granted to the federal government with the vast range of governmental powers left to the constituent units. The difference is strikingly illustrated by the British North America Act, 1867, 30 Vict., c. 3, and the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900, 63 & 64 Vict., c. 12. It is relevant to remind that our Constitution is one of particular powers given to the National Government with the powers not so delegated reserved to the States or, in the case of limitations upon both governments, to the people. Except insofar as penal remedies may be provided by Congress under the explicit authority to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" the other powers granted by Art. I, § 8, the bulk of authority to legislate on what may be compendiously described as criminal justice, which, in other nations, belongs to the central government, is, under our system, the responsibility of the individual States.

The choice of this form of federal arrangement was the product of a jealous concern lest federal power encroach upon the proper domain of the States and upon the rights of the people. It was the same jealous concern that led to the restrictions on the National Government expressed by the first ten amendments, colloquially known as the Bill of Rights. These provisions are deeply concerned with procedural safeguards pertaining to criminal

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justice within the restricted area of federal jurisdiction. They are not restrictions upon the vast domain of the criminal law that belongs exclusively to the States.2 Needless to say, no statesman of [78 S.Ct. 1306] his day cared more for safeguarding the liberties that were enshrined in the Bill of Rights than did James Madison. But it was his view that these liberties were already protected against federal action by the Constitution itself. "My own opinion," he wrote to Thomas Jefferson,

has always been in favor of a bill of...

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