378 U.S. 52 (1964), 138, Murphy v. Waterfront Commission

Docket Nº:No. 138
Citation:378 U.S. 52, 84 S.Ct. 1594, 12 L.Ed.2d 678
Party Name:Murphy v. Waterfront Commission
Case Date:June 15, 1964
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 52

378 U.S. 52 (1964)

84 S.Ct. 1594, 12 L.Ed.2d 678

Murphy

v.

Waterfront Commission

No. 138

United States Supreme Court

June 15, 1964

Argued March 5, 1964

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY

Syllabus

Although petitioners were granted immunity from prosecution under state laws, they refused to answer questions at a hearing conducted by the respondent on the ground that the answers might tend to incriminate them under federal law, to which the grant of immunity did not extend. They were held in civil and criminal contempt of court. The State Supreme Court reversed the criminal conviction on procedural grounds, but affirmed the civil contempt judgment, holding that a State may constitutionally compel a witness to give testimony which might be used against him in a federal prosecution.

Held: One jurisdiction in our federal system may not, absent an immunity provision, compel a witness to give testimony which might incriminate him under the laws of another jurisdiction.

(a) A state witness granted immunity from prosecution under state law may not be compelled to give testimony which may incriminate him under federal law unless such testimony and its fruits cannot be used in connection with a federal prosecution against him, and such use of compelled testimony or its fruits, as distinguished from independent evidence, by the Federal Government must be proscribed. Feldman v. United States, 322 U.S. 487, overruled. Pp. 79-80.

(b) The State may thus obtain information requisite for effective law enforcement and the witness and the Federal Government are left in the same position as if the witness claimed his privilege in the absence of a state grant of immunity. P. 79.

(c) With the removal of the fear of federal prosecution, the petitioners may be compelled to answer. Pp. 79-80.

39 N.J. 436, 189 A.2d 36, judgment vacated in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

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GOLDBERG, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG delivered the opinion of the Court.

We have held today that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination must be deemed fully applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1. This case presents a related issue: whether one [84 S.Ct. 1596] jurisdiction within our federal structure may compel a witness, whom it has immunized from prosecution under its laws, to give testimony which might then be used to convict him of a crime against another such jurisdiction.1

Petitioners were subpoenaed to testify at a hearing conducted by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor concerning a work stoppage at the Hoboken, New Jersey, piers. After refusing to respond to certain questions about the stoppage on the ground that the answers might tend to incriminated them, petitioners were granted immunity from prosecution under the laws of New Jersey and New York.2 Notwithstanding this grant of immunity, they still refused to respond to the questions on the

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ground that the answers might tend to incriminate them under federal law, to which the grant of immunity did not purport to extend. Petitioners were thereupon held in civil and criminal contempt of court. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the criminal contempt conviction on procedural grounds but, relying on this Court's decisions in Knapp v. Schweitzer, 357 U.S. 371; Feldman v. United States, 322 U.S. 487; and United States v. Murdock, 284 U.S. 141, affirmed the civil contempt judgments on the merits. The court held that a State may constitutionally compel a witness to give testimony which might be used in a federal prosecution against him.3 39 N.J. 436, 452-458, 189 A.2d 36, 46-49.

Since a grant of immunity is valid only if it is coextensive with the scope of the privilege against self-incrimination, Counselman v. Hitchcock, 142 U.S. 547, we must now decide the fundamental constitutional question of whether, absent an immunity provision, one jurisdiction in our federal structure may compel a witness to give testimony which might incriminate him under the laws of another jurisdiction. The answer to this question must depend, of course, on whether such an application of the privilege promotes or defeats its policies and purposes.

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I. THE POLICIES OF THE PRIVILEGE

The privilege against self-incrimination "registers an important advance in the development of our liberty -- one of the great landmarks in man's struggle to make himself civilized." Ullmann v. United States, 350 U.S. 422, 426.4 It reflects many of our fundamental values and most noble aspirations: our unwillingness to subject those suspected of crime to the cruel trilemma of self-accusation, perjury or contempt; our preference for [84 S.Ct. 1597] an accusatorial, rather than an inquisitorial, system of criminal justice; our fear that self-incriminating statements will be elicited by inhumane treatment and abuses; our sense of fair play which dictates

a fair state-individual balance by requiring the government to leave the individual alone until good cause is shown for disturbing him and by requiring the government in its contest with the individual to shoulder the entire load,

8 Wigmore, Evidence (McNaughton rev., 1961) 317; our respect for the inviolability of the human personality and of the right of each individual "to a private enclave where he may lead a private life," United States v. Grunewald, 233 F.2d 556, 581-582 (Frank J., dissenting), rev'd, 353 U.S. 391; our distrust of self-deprecatory statements; and our realization that the privilege, while sometimes "a shelter to the guilty," is often "a protection to the innocent." Quinn v. United States, 349 U.S. 155, 162.

Most, if not all, of these policies and purposes are defeated when a witness "can be whipsawed into incriminating himself under both state and federal law even though" the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination is applicable to each. Cf. Knapp v. Schweitzer, 357 U.S. 371, 385 (dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE BLACK). This has become especially true in our age of

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"cooperative federalism," where the Federal and State Governments are waging a united front against many types of criminal activity.5

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Respondent contends, however, that we should adhere to the "established rule" that the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination does not protect a witness in one jurisdiction against being compelled to give testimony which could be used to convict him in another jurisdiction. This "rule" has three decisional facets: United States v. Murdock, 284 U.S. 141, held that the Federal Government could compel a [84 S.Ct. 1598] witness to give testimony which might incriminate him under state law; Knapp v. Schweitzer, 357 U.S. 371, held that a State could compel a witness to give testimony which might incriminate him under federal law; and Feldman v. United States, 322 U.S. 487, held that testimony thus compelled by a State could be introduced into evidence in the federal courts.

Our decision today in Malloy v. Hogan, supra, necessitates a reconsideration of this rule.6 Our review of the pertinent cases in this Court and of their English antecedents reveals that Murdock did not adequately consider the relevant authorities, and has been significantly weakened by subsequent decisions of this Court, and, further, that the legal premises underlying Feldman and Knapp have since been rejected.

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II. THE EARLY ENGLISH AND AMERICAN CASES

A. The English Cases Before the Adoption of the Constitution

In 1749, the Court of Exchequer decided East India Co. v. Campbell, 1 Ves.Sen. 246, 27 Eng.Rep. 1010. The defendant in that case refused to "discover" certain information in a proceeding in an English court on the ground that it might subject him to punishment in the courts of India. The court unanimously held that the privilege against self-incrimination protected a witness in an English court from being compelled to give testimony which could be used to convict him in the courts of another jurisdiction. The court stated the rule to be:

that this court shall not oblige one to discover that which, if he answers in the affirmative, will subject him to the punishment of a crime . . . , and that he is punishable appears from the case of Omichund v. Barker, 1 Atk. 21, as a jurisdiction is erected in Calcutta for criminal facts where he may be sent to government and tried, thought not punishable here; like the case of one who was concerned in a rape in Ireland and sent over there by the government to be tried, although the court of B.R. here refused to do it . . . , for the government may send persons to answer for a crime wherever committed, that he may not involve his country, and to prevent reprisals.

1 Ves.Sen. at 247, 27 Eng.Rep. at 1011.

In the following year, this rule was applied in a case involving separate systems of courts and law located within the same geographic area. The defendant in Brownsword v. Edwards, 2 Ves.Sen. 243, 28 Eng.Rep. 157, refused to "discover, whether she was lawfully married" to a certain individual, on the ground that, if she admitted to the marriage, she would be confessing to an act which, although legal under the common law, would render her

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"liable to prosecution [84 S.Ct. 1599] in ecclesiastical court." The Lord Chancellor said:

This appears a very plain case, in which defendant may protect herself from making a discovery of her marriage, and I am afraid, if the court should overrule such a plea, it would be setting up the oath ex officio which then the parliament in the time of Charles I. would in vain have taken away if the party might come into this court for it. The general rule is that no one is bound to answer so as to subject himself to punishment, whether that punishment arises by the ecclesiastical law of the land.

2 Ves.Sen. at 244-245, 28 Eng.Rep. at 158.

B. The Saline Bank Case

It was against this...

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