McGrain v. Daugherty
Annotate this Case
273 U.S. 135 (1927)
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U.S. Supreme Court
McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (1927)
McGrain v. Daugherty
Argued December 5, 1924
Decided January 17, 1927
273 U.S. 135
1. Deputies, with authority to execute warrants, may be appointed by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate, under a standing order of the Senate, such appointments being sanctioned by practice and by acts of Congress fixing the compensation of the appointees and providing for its payment. P. 273 U. S. 154.
2. Such deputy may serve a warrant of attachment issued by the President of the Senate and addressed only to the Sergeant-at-Arms, in pursuance of a Senate resolution contemplating service by either. P. 273 U. S. 155.
3. A warrant of the Senate for attachment of a person who ignored a subpoena from a Senate committee is supported by oath within the requirement of the Fourth Amendment when based upon the committee's report of the facts of the contumacy, made on the committee's own knowledge and having the sanction of the oath of office of its members. P. 273 U. S. 156.
4. Subpoenas issued by a committee of the Senate to bring before it a witness to testify in an investigation authorized by the Senate are as if issued by the Senate itself. P. 273 U. S. 158.
5. Therefore, in case of disobedience, the fact that the subpoena, and the contumacy related only to testimony sought by a committee is not a valid objection to a resolution of the Senate, and warrant issued thereon, requiring the defaulting witness to appear before the bar of the Senate itself, then and there to give the desired testimony. P. 158.
6. Each house of Congress has power, through its own process, to compel a private individual to appear before it or one of its committees and give testimony needed to enable it efficiently to exercise a legislative function belonging to it under the Constitution. P. 273 U. S. 160.
7. This has support in long practice of the houses separately, and in repeated Acts of Congress, all amounting to a practical construction of the Constitution. Pp. 273 U. S. 161, 273 U. S. 167, 273 U. S. 174.
8. The two houses of Congress, in their separate relations, have not only such powers as are expressly granted them by the Constitution, but also such auxiliary powers as are necessary and appropriate
to make the express powers effective, but neither is invested with "general" power to inquire into private affairs and compel disclosures. P. 273 U. S. 173.
9. A witness may rightfully refuse to answer where the bounds of the power are exceeded or the questions are not pertinent to the matter under inquiry. P. 273 U. S. 176.
10. A resolution of the Senate directing a committee to investigate the administration of the Department of Justice -- whether its functions were being properly discharged or were being neglected or misdirected, and particularly whether the Attorney General and his assistants were performing or neglecting their duties in respect of the institution and prosecution of proceedings to punish crimes and enforce appropriate remedies against the wrongdoers, specific instances of alleged neglect being recited -- concerned a subject on which legislation could be had which would be materially aided by the information which the investigation was calculated to elicit. P. 273 U. S. 176.
11. It is to be presumed that the object of the Senate in ordering such an investigation is to aid it in legislating. P. 273 U. S. 178.
12. It is not a valid objection to such investigation that it might disclose wrongdoing or crime by a public officer named in the resolution. P. 273 U. S. 179.
13. A resolution of the Senate directing attachment of a witness who had disobeyed a committee subpoena to such an investigation, and declaring that his testimony is sought with the purpose of obtaining "information necessary as a basis for such legislative and other action as the Senate may deem necessary and proper," supports the inference, from the earlier resolution, of a legislative object. The suggestion of "other action" does not overcome the other part of the declaration, and thereby invalidate the attachment proceedings. P. 273 U. S. 180.
14. In view of the character of the Senate as a continuing body, and its power to continue or revive, with its original functions, the committee before which the investigation herein involved was pending, the question of the legality of the attachment of the respondent as a contumacious witness did not become moot with the expiration of the Congress during which the investigation and the attachment were ordered. P. 273 U. S. 180.
299 Fed. 620 reversed.
Appeal from a final order of the district court in habeas corpus discharging the respondent, Mally S.
Daugherty, from the custody of John J. McGrain, Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, by whom he had been arrested, as a contumacious witness, under a warrant of attachment, issued by the President of the Senate in pursuance of a Senate resolution.