393 U.S. 825 (1966), 396, DeGregory v. Attorney General of New Hampshire

Docket NºNo. 396
Citation393 U.S. 825
Party NameDeGregory v. Attorney General of New Hampshire
Case DateApril 04, 1966
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 825

393 U.S. 825 (1966)

DeGregory

v.

Attorney General of New Hampshire

No. 396

United States Supreme Court

April 4, 1966

Argued February 24, 1966

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

Syllabus

Appellee made an investigation under a statute authorizing him as Attorney General of New Hampshire to investigate whenever he had information he deemed reasonable relating to "violations" covering a wide range of "subversive" activities designed to overthrow the constitutional form of the State's government. Appellant, answering questions relating to the period since 1957, stated that he did not serve in a subversive role, and lacked knowledge of current subversion. He refused, without asserting the privilege against self-incrimination, to answer questions about earlier periods which respondent asked in reliance on a 1955 report connecting appellant with the Communist Party only up to 10 years before the investigation. The trial court found appellant guilty of contempt, and the State Supreme Court affirmed.

Held: On the record here, the State's interest in protecting itself against subversion is too remote to override appellant's First Amendment right to political and associational privacy. Pp. 828-830.

(a) No attack is made on the truthfulness of appellant's testimony that he had not been involved with the Communist Party since 1957 and had no knowledge of Communist activities during that period. P. 829.

(b) The staleness of the basis for the investigation and the subject matter, which was of historical, rather than current, interest, made indefensible compelled disclosure of appellant's political and associational past. P. 829.

(c) The First Amendment protects that privacy, and it may not be breached where there is no showing of a compelling state interest. P. 829.

(d) There is no evidence here of any Communist movement in New Hampshire or showing of danger of sedition to the State, and thus no "nexus" between appellant and subversive activities in the State. Uphaus v. Wyman, 360 U.S. 72, distinguished. Pp. 829-830.

106 N.H. 262, 209 A.2d 712, reversed.

Page 826

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

Opinion of the Court by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, announced by MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN.

This is the third time that the constitutional rights of appellant challenged in investigations by New Hampshire into subversion have been brought to us.1 The present case stems from an investigation by the Attorney General of the State under Rev.Stat.Ann. § 588:8-a (1965 Supp.), enacted in 1957, which provides in part:

At any time when the attorney general has information which he deems reasonable or reliable relating to violations of the provisions of this chapter he shall make full and complete investigation thereof and shall report to the general court the results of this investigation, together with his recommendations, if any, for legislation. . . . [T]he attorney general is hereby authorized to make public such information received by him, testimony given before him, and matters handled by him as he deems fit to effectuate the purposes hereof.

The "violations" cover a wide range of "subversive" activities designed to

overthrow, destroy or alter, or to assist in the overthrow, destruction or alteration of, the constitutional form of the government . . . of the

Page 827

state of New Hampshire, or any political subdivision . . . by force, or violence.2

§ 588:1.

Appellant was willing to answer questions concerning his relationship with and knowledge of Communist activities since 1957, and, in fact, he did answer them.3 But he refused to answer a series of questions put him concerning earlier periods.4 His refusal, not being based on

Page 828

the Fifth Amendment, raised important questions under the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. He was committed to jail for a period of one year or until he purged himself of contempt. That judgment was affirmed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 106 N.H. 262, 209 A.2d 712. The case is here on appeal. 382 U.S. 877.

The substantiality of appellant's First Amendment claim can best be seen by considering what he was asked to do. Appellant had already testified that he had not been involved with the Communist Party since 1957, and that he had no knowledge of Communist activities during that period. The Attorney General further sought to have him disclose information relating to his political associations of an earlier day, the meetings he attended, and the views expressed and ideas advocated at any such gatherings.5 Indeed, the Attorney General here relied entirely upon a 1955 Report on Subversive Activities in New Hampshire to justify renewed investigation of appellant. The Report connects appellant with the Communist Party only until 1953, over 10 years prior to the investigation giving rise to the present contempt.

On the basis of our prior cases, appellant had every reason to anticipate that the details of his political associations to which he might testify would be reported in a pamphlet purporting to describe the nature of subversion in New Hampshire. (See Uphaus v. Wyman, 360 U.S. 72, 88-95, Brennan, J., dissenting.) Admittedly,

exposure -- in the sense of disclosure -- is an inescapable incident of an investigation into the presence of subversive persons within a State.

Uphaus v. Wyman, supra, at 81. But whatever justification may have supported such exposure in Uphaus is absent here; the

Page 829

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58 practice notes
  • 638 F.Supp. 556 (W.D.N.Y. 1986), CR-84-174, United States v. General Nutrition, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Western District of New York
    • 27 Mayo 1986
    ...widespread danger to human life out of interstate commerce." AMP Incorporated v. Gardner, 389 F.2d 825, 829 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 86, 21 L.Ed.2d 95 (1968); cf., United States v. Generix Drug Corp., 460 U.S. 453, 103 S.Ct. 1298, 75 L.Ed.2d 198 (1983) (broad int......
  • 424 So.2d 648 (Ala.Crim.App. 1982), 6 Div. 793, Wesley v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 12 Octubre 1982
    ...exclusion of a 'cognizable group or class of qualified citizens.' Grimes v. United States, 5 Cir., 1968, 391 F.2d 709, cert. denied, 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 87, 21 L.Ed.2d 96; Rabinowitz v. United States, 5 Cir., 1966, 366 F.2d 34. This Court and others have held that those who do not choose......
  • 675 F.2d 994 (8th Cir. 1982), 81-1793, United States v. Undetermined Quantities of Various Articles of Drug ... Equidantin Nitrofurantoin Suspension
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 15 Abril 1982
    ...Inc., 412 U.S. 645, 653-54, 93 S.Ct. 2488, 2494, 37 L.Ed.2d 235 (1973); AMP, Inc. v. Gardner, 389 F.2d 825, 831 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 86, 21 L.Ed.2d 95 (1968). Cf. United States v. Alcon Laboratories, 636 F.2d 876, 888 (1st Cir. 1980) ("Jurisdiction over the n......
  • 446 F.2d 410 (10th Cir. 1971), 702-70, Tapia v. Rodriguez
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • 16 Agosto 1971
    ...even lacking objection by defense Page 415 counsel, was plain error. Dillon v. United States, 391 F.2d 433 (10th Cir. 1968), cert. denied 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 87, 21 L.Ed.2d 96 (1968). Where the prosecutor, on cross-examination, asked the defendant with respect to a conviction which was t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • 638 F.Supp. 556 (W.D.N.Y. 1986), CR-84-174, United States v. General Nutrition, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Western District of New York
    • 27 Mayo 1986
    ...widespread danger to human life out of interstate commerce." AMP Incorporated v. Gardner, 389 F.2d 825, 829 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 86, 21 L.Ed.2d 95 (1968); cf., United States v. Generix Drug Corp., 460 U.S. 453, 103 S.Ct. 1298, 75 L.Ed.2d 198 (1983) (broad int......
  • 424 So.2d 648 (Ala.Crim.App. 1982), 6 Div. 793, Wesley v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 12 Octubre 1982
    ...exclusion of a 'cognizable group or class of qualified citizens.' Grimes v. United States, 5 Cir., 1968, 391 F.2d 709, cert. denied, 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 87, 21 L.Ed.2d 96; Rabinowitz v. United States, 5 Cir., 1966, 366 F.2d 34. This Court and others have held that those who do not choose......
  • 675 F.2d 994 (8th Cir. 1982), 81-1793, United States v. Undetermined Quantities of Various Articles of Drug ... Equidantin Nitrofurantoin Suspension
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 15 Abril 1982
    ...Inc., 412 U.S. 645, 653-54, 93 S.Ct. 2488, 2494, 37 L.Ed.2d 235 (1973); AMP, Inc. v. Gardner, 389 F.2d 825, 831 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 86, 21 L.Ed.2d 95 (1968). Cf. United States v. Alcon Laboratories, 636 F.2d 876, 888 (1st Cir. 1980) ("Jurisdiction over the n......
  • 446 F.2d 410 (10th Cir. 1971), 702-70, Tapia v. Rodriguez
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • 16 Agosto 1971
    ...even lacking objection by defense Page 415 counsel, was plain error. Dillon v. United States, 391 F.2d 433 (10th Cir. 1968), cert. denied 393 U.S. 825, 89 S.Ct. 87, 21 L.Ed.2d 96 (1968). Where the prosecutor, on cross-examination, asked the defendant with respect to a conviction which was t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results