Emspak v. United States
349 U.S. 190 (1955)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Emspak v. United States, 349 U.S. 190 (1955)

Emspak v. United States

No. 9

Argued January 12-13, 1954

Reargued April 5, 1955

Decided May 23, 1955

349 U.S. 190

Syllabus

Petitioner, an officer of a labor union, was summoned to testify before a congressional committee investigating alleged Communist infiltration of labor unions in defense plants. He refused to answer eight questions concerning his alleged membership and activities in the Communist Party, two questions concerning his alleged membership in two other organizations which had been cited by the committee as Communist front organizations, and 58 questions as to whether he knew certain individuals who had been charged with having Communist affiliations and whether they had ever held official positions in the union. He based his refusal to answer on "primarily the First Amendment, supplemented by the Fifth." The committee did not ask him to state more specifically the ground for his refusal to answer, and it did not specifically overrule his objection or direct him to answer.

Held: in his trial for a violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192, the District Court should have entered a judgment of acquittal. Pp. 349 U. S. 191-202.

(a) Petitioner's reference to "primarily the First Amendment, supplemented by the Fifth" was sufficient to invoke his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. Quinn v. United States, ante, p. 349 U. S. 155. Pp. 349 U. S. 191-195.

(b) Petitioner's equivocal answer of "No" to a question as to whether he felt that revealing his knowledge would subject him to criminal prosecution did not constitute an effective waiver or disclaimer of his privilege against self-incrimination. Smith v. United States,337 U. S. 137. Pp. 349 U. S. 195-198.

(c) The eight questions concerning petitioner's alleged membership in the Communist Party fell within the scope of the privilege against self-incrimination. Blau v. United States,340 U. S. 159. Pp. 349 U. S. 198-199.

(d) So did the two questions concerning his alleged membership in two other organizations which had previously been cited by the committee as Communist front organizations. P. 349 U. S. 199.

Page 349 U. S. 191

(e) Since the record reveals that they were asked in a setting of possible incrimination, the 58 questions concerning petitioner's associations were also within the scope of the privilege against self-incrimination. Pp. 349 U. S. 199-201.

(f) The committee did not adequately apprise petitioner that an answer was required notwithstanding his objection, and, without such an apprisal, there is lacking the element of deliberateness necessary for conviction under § 192 for a refusal to answer. Quinn v. United States, ante, p. 349 U. S. 155. P. 349 U. S. 202.

91 U.S.App.D.C. 378, 203 F.2d 54, reversed.

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