Braden v. United States - 365 U.S. 431 (1961)
U.S. Supreme Court
Braden v. United States, 365 U.S. 431 (1961)
Braden v. United States
Argued November 17, 1960
Decided February 27, 1961
365 U.S. 431
Summoned to testify before a Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, which was investigating Communist infiltration into basic industries in the South and Communist Party propaganda activities in the South, petitioner refused to answer many of the questions directed to him. He did not claim his privilege against self-incrimination, but contended that the questions were not pertinent to a question under inquiry by the Subcommittee, and that its questioning violated his rights under the First Amendment. For refusing to answer, he was convicted of a violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192, which makes it a misdemeanor for any person summoned as a witness by either House of Congress or a committee thereof to refuse to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry.
Held: Petitioner's conviction is sustained. Pp. 365 U. S. 432-438.
1. On the record, the subjects under investigation by the Subcommittee when petitioner was interrogated were Communist infiltration into basic southern industries and Communist Party propaganda activities in the South; the Subcommittee's investigation of these subjects was authorized by Congress; the interrogation was pertinent to a question under Subcommittee inquiry; and petitioner was fully apprised of its pertinency. Wilkinson v. United States, ante, p. 365 U. S. 399. Pp. 365 U. S. 432-433.
2. The Subcommittee's inquiry as to whether the petitioner had been a member of the Communist Party at the instant when he affixed his signature to a letter urging opposition to certain bills in Congress did not violate his rights under the First Amendment. Barenblatt v. United States, 360 U. S. 109. Pp. 365 U. S. 433-435.
3. It was the province of the Court, and not of the jury, to decide whether the questions asked by the Subcommittee were pertinent to the subject under inquiry. Sinclair v. United States, 279 U. S. 263. Pp. 365 U. S. 436-437.
4. That, in refusing to answer the questions, petitioner relied upon his understanding of previous decisions of this Court was no defense. Sinclair v. United States, supra. Pp. 365 U. S. 437-438.
272 F.2d 653 affirmed.