Sweezy v. State of New Hampshire Wyman, No. 175

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMr. Chief Justice WARREN announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Mr. Justice BLACK
Citation77 S.Ct. 1203,354 U.S. 234,1 L.Ed.2d 1311
Docket NumberNo. 175
Decision Date17 June 1957
PartiesPaul M. SWEEZY, Appellant, v. STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE by Louis C. WYMAN, Attorney General

354 U.S. 234
77 S.Ct. 1203
1 L.Ed.2d 1311
Paul M. SWEEZY, Appellant,

v.

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE by Louis C. WYMAN, Attorney General.

No. 175.
Argued March 5, 1957.
Decided June 17, 1957.

Page 235

Mr. Thomas I. Emerson, for the appellant.

Mr. Louis C. Wyman, Atty. Gen. of New Hampshire, Manchester, N.H., for the appellee.

Mr. Chief Justice WARREN announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Mr. Justice BLACK, Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, and Mr. Justice BRENNAN join.

This case, like Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 77 S.Ct. 1173, brings before us a question concerning the constitutional limits of legislative inquiry. The investigation here was conducted under the aegis of a state legislature, rather than a House of Congress. This places the controversy in a slightly different setting from that in Watkins. The ultimate question here is whether the investigation deprived Sweezy of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. For the reasons to be set out in this opinion, we conclude that the record in this case does not sustain the power of the State to compel the disclosures that the witness refused to make.

This case was brought here as an appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2), 28 U.S.C.A. § 1257(2). Jurisdiction was alleged to rest upon contentions, rejected by the state courts, that a statute

Page 236

of New Hampshire is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. We postponed a decision on the question of jurisdiction until consideration of the merits. 352 U.S. 812, 77 S.Ct. 49. The parties neither briefed nor argued the jurisdictional question. The appellant has thus failed to meet his burden of showing that jurisdiction by appeal was properly invoked. The appeal is therefore dismissed. Treating the appeal papers as a petition for writ of certiorari, under 28 U.S.C. § 2103, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2103, the petition is granted. Cf. Union National Bank of Wichita, Kan. v. Lamb, 337 U.S. 38, 39—40, 69 S.Ct. 911, 912, 93 L.Ed. 1190.

The investigation in which petitioner was summoned to testify had its origins in a statute passed by the New Hampshire legislature in 1951.1 It was a comprehensive scheme of regulation of subversive activities. There was a section defining criminal conduct in the nature of sedition. 'Subversive organizations' were declared unlawful and ordered dissolved. 'Subversive persons' were made ineligible for employment by the state government. Included in the disability were those employed as teachers or in other capacities by any public educational institution. A loyalty program was instituted to eliminate 'subversive persons' among government personnel. All present employees, as well as candidates for elective office in the future, were required to make sworn statements that they were not 'subversive persons.'

In 1953, the legislature adopted a 'Joint Resolution Relating to the Investigation of Subversive Activities.'2 It was resolved:

'That the attorney general is hereby authorized and directed to make full and complete investigation with respect to violations of the subversive activities act of 1951 and to determine whether subversive

Page 237

persons as defined in said act are presently located within this state. The attorney general is authorized to act upon his own motion and upon such information as in his judgment may be reasonable or reliable * * *.

'The attorney general is directed to proceed with criminal prosecutions under the subversive activities act whenever evidence presented to him in the course of the investigation indicates violations thereof, and he shall report to the 1955 session on the first day of its regular session the results of this investigation, together with his recommendations, if any, for necessary legislation.'3

Under state law, this was construed to constitute the Attorney General as a one-man legislative committee.4

Page 238

He was given the authority to delegate any part of the investigation to any member of his staff. The legislature conferred upon the Attorney General the further authority to subpoena witnesses or documents. He did not have power to hold witnesses in contempt, however. In the event that coercive or punitive sanctions were needed, the Attorney General could invoke the aid of a State Superior Court which could find recalcitrant witnesses in contempt of court.5

Petitioner was summoned to appear before the Attorney General on two separate occasions. On January 5, 1954, petitioner testified at length upon his past conduct and associations. He denied that he had ever been a member of the Communist Party or that he had ever been part of any program to overthrow the government by force or violence. The interrogation ranged over many matters, from petitioner's World War II military service with the Office of Strategic Services to his sponsorship, in 1949, of the Scientific and Cultural Conference for World Peace, at which he spoke.

During the course of the inquiry, petitioner declined to answer several questions. His reasons for doing so were given in a statement he read to the Committee at

Page 239

the outset of the hearing.6 He declared he would not answer those questions which were not pertinent to the

Page 240

subject under inquiry as well as those which transgress the limitations of the First Amendment. In keeping with

Page 241

this stand, he refused to disclose his knowledge of the Progressive Party in New Hampshire or of persons with

Page 242

whom he was acquainted in that organization.7 No action was taken by the Attorney General to compel answers to these questions.

The Attorney General again summoned petitioner to testify on June 3, 1954. There was more interrogation about the witness' prior contacts with Communists. The Attorney General lays great stress upon an article which petitioner had co-authored. It deplored the use of violence by the United States and other capitalist countries in attempting to preserve a social order which the writers thought must inevitably fall. This resistance, the article

Page 243

continued, will be met by violence from the oncoming socialism, violence which is to be less condemned morally than that of capitalism since its purpose is to create a 'truly human society.' Petitioner affirmed that he styled himself a 'classical Marxist' and a 'socialist' and that the article expressed his continuing opinion.

Again, at the second hearing, the Attorney General asked, and petitioner refused to answer, questions concerning the Progressive Party, and its predecessor, the Progressive Citizens of America. Those were:

'Was she, Nancy Sweezy, your wife, active in the formation of the Progressive Citizens of America?'

'Was Nancy Sweezy then working with individuals who were then members of the Communist Party?'

'Was Charles Beebe active in forming the Progressive Citizens of America?'

'Was Charles Beebe active in the Progressive Party in New Hampshire?'

'Did he work with your present wife—Did Charles Beebe work with your present wife in 1947?'

'Did it (a meeting at the home of Abraham Walenko in Weare during 1948) have anything to do with the Progressive Party?'

The Attorney General also turned to a subject which had not yet occurred at the time of the first hearing. On March 22, 1954, petitioner had delivered a lecture to a class of 100 students in the humanities course at the University of New Hampshire. This talk was given at the invitation of the faculty teaching that course. Petitioner had addressed the class upon such invitations in the two preceding years as well. He declined to answer the following questions:

'What was the subject of your lecture?'

'Didn't you tell the class at the University of New Hampshire on Monday, March 22, 1954, that Socialism was inevitable in this country?'

Page 244

'Did you advocate Marxism at that time?'

'Did you express the opinion, or did you make the statement at that time that Socialism was inevitable in America?'

'Did you in this last lecture on March 22 or in any of the former lectures espouse the theory of dialectical materialism?'

Distinct from the categories of questions about the Progressive Party and the lectures was one question about petitioner's opinions. He was asked: 'Do you believe in Communism?' He had already testified that he had never been a member of the Communist Party, but he refused to answer this or any other question concerning opinion or belief.

Petitioner adhered in this second proceeding to the same reasons for not answering he had given in his statement at the first hearing. He maintained that the questions were not pertinent to the matter under inquiry and that they infringed upon an area protected under the First Amendment.

Following the hearings, the Attorney General petitioned the Superior Court of Merrimack County, New Hampshire, setting forth the circumstances of petitioner's appearance before the Committee and his refusal to answer certain questions.8 The petition prayed that the court propound the questions to the witness. After hearing argument, the court ruled that the questions set out above were pertinent.9 Petitioner was called as a witness by the court and persisted in his refusal to answer for constitutional reasons. The court adjudged him in contempt

Page 245

and ordered him committed to the county jail until purged of the contempt.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. 100 N.H. 103, 121 A.2d 783. Its opinion discusses only two classes of questions addressed to the witness: those dealing with the lectures and those about the Progressive Party and the Progressive Citizens of America. No mention is made of the single question concerning petitioner's belief in Communism. In view of what we hold to be the controlling issue of the case, however, it is unnecessary to resolve affirmatively that that particular question was or was not included in the decision by the State Supreme Court.

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566 practice notes
  • Mancuso v. Taft, Civ. A. No. 4751.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • 17 Abril 1972
    ...of a progressive society for which it was designed yield new and fuller import to its meaning." Sweezy v. State of New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 266, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1220, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957) (J. Frankfurter, The deference given by the Mitchell court to the legislative judgment about restri......
  • Whalen v. United States, No. 78-5471
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 16 Abril 1980
    ...Philadelphia v. Educational Equality League, 415 U.S. 605, 615, 94 S.Ct. 1323, 1330, 39 L.Ed.2d 630, and n. 13; Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 255, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1214, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311; id., at 255, 256-257, 77 S.Ct., at 1214, 1214-1215 (Frankfurter, J., concurring in result). It is ......
  • Buckley v. Valeo, No. 75-1061
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 29 Agosto 1975
    ...concerned, disclosure does indeed infringe their First Amendment freedom to associate to advocate unorthodoxy. Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957). But the right of political association is subject to reasonable restriction for reasons of compelling s......
  • Law Students Civil Rights Research Coun., Inc. v. Wadmond, 68 Civ. 2917
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 17 Febrero 1969
    ...deemed a matter of common knowledge. We are not disposed to sanction inquiries of greater scope. Although Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957), could be distinguished as involving a sweeping legislative inquiry not limited to public employees or applic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
559 cases
  • Mancuso v. Taft, Civ. A. No. 4751.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • 17 Abril 1972
    ...of a progressive society for which it was designed yield new and fuller import to its meaning." Sweezy v. State of New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 266, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1220, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957) (J. Frankfurter, The deference given by the Mitchell court to the legislative judgment about restri......
  • Whalen v. United States, No. 78-5471
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 16 Abril 1980
    ...Philadelphia v. Educational Equality League, 415 U.S. 605, 615, 94 S.Ct. 1323, 1330, 39 L.Ed.2d 630, and n. 13; Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 255, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1214, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311; id., at 255, 256-257, 77 S.Ct., at 1214, 1214-1215 (Frankfurter, J., concurring in result). It is ......
  • Buckley v. Valeo, No. 75-1061
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • 29 Agosto 1975
    ...concerned, disclosure does indeed infringe their First Amendment freedom to associate to advocate unorthodoxy. Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957). But the right of political association is subject to reasonable restriction for reasons of compelling s......
  • Law Students Civil Rights Research Coun., Inc. v. Wadmond, 68 Civ. 2917
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 17 Febrero 1969
    ...deemed a matter of common knowledge. We are not disposed to sanction inquiries of greater scope. Although Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 77 S.Ct. 1203, 1 L.Ed.2d 1311 (1957), could be distinguished as involving a sweeping legislative inquiry not limited to public employees or applic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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  • Ending Political Discrimination in the Workplace.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 87 Nbr. 2, March 2022
    • 22 Marzo 2022
    ...(quoting NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 430 (1963)). (45) 393 U.S. 23, 24-26, 30 (1968) (discussing the election law challenge). (46) 354 U.S. 234, 250 (1957) (plurality opinion); see id. at 235-36 (discussing the legislative investigation challenge); see also United Mine Workers v. Ill. St......
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    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 35 Nbr. 1, September 2021
    • 22 Septiembre 2021
    ...to Protect Health Compatible with Substantive Due Process Rights?, 20 ANNALS HEALTH L. 113, 127 (2011). (230) Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (231) Id. at 256 (Frankfurter, J., "Ours is the narrowly circumscribed but exceedingly difficult task of making the final judicial accommodatio......
  • Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 45 Nbr. 2, July 2022
    • 1 Julio 2022
    ...conservative students were 300 times more likely to self-censor their political views). (426.) Waldron, supra note 84, at 115, 124. (427.) 354 U.S. 234 (428.) Id. at 249-50 (overturning a contempt citation of a university professor who had refused to answer questions about his possible supp......
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    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 12-2, June 1959
    • 1 Junio 1959
    ...in jail and a fine of $50. 80 NAACP v. Alabama, supra note 37; Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 (1957); Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (1957); Sacher v. United States, 356 U.S. 576 (1958). The Fifth Amendment could be of little value before state investigatory bodies. First, a ......
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