Bryson v. United States,
396 U.S. 64 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bryson v. United States, 396 U.S. 64 (1969)

Bryson v. United States

No. 35

Argued October 14, 1969

Decided December 8, 1969

396 U.S. 64


Petitioner challenges his 1955 conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 for falsely and fraudulently denying affiliation with the Communist Party in an affidavit he filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), pursuant to § 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 9(h), later repealed, provided that a union could not draw upon the jurisdiction of the NLRB unless each union officer filed with the NLRB an affidavit stating "that he is not a member of the Communist Party or affiliated with such party. . . ." The District Court set aside the conviction. It distinguished Dennis v. United States, 384 U. S. 855; decided that § 9(h), which had been upheld in American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U. S. 382, could no longer be thought constitutionally valid, particularly in light of United States v. Brown, 381 U. S. 437, and concluded that the Government had no right to ask the questions which petitioner answered falsely in his affidavit. The Court of Appeals reversed, since it found "no significant differences" between this case and Dennis, supra, and therefore thought it unnecessary to consider the constitutionality of § 9(h).


1. The constitutionality of § 9(h) is legally irrelevant to the validity of petitioner's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which punishes the making of fraudulent statements to the Government, Dennis, supra, because none of the elements of proof for petitioner's conviction under § 1001 has been shown to depend on the validity of § 9(h). Pp. 396 U. S. 68-72.

(a) The statutory term "affiliated," which petitioner claims is vague and overbroad and which he suggests he misunderstood, was narrowly defined by the trial court in an instruction later explicitly approved by this Court, and the jury's verdict reflects a determination that petitioner's false statement was knowingly and deliberately made. Pp. 396 U. S. 69-70.

(b) Petitioner's false statement was made in a "matter within the jurisdiction" of the NLRB, as the NLRB received the affidavit pursuant to explicit statutory authority, which, only a short time before, had been upheld as constitutional in Douds, supra. Pp. 396 U. S. 70-71.

Page 396 U. S. 65

2. Dennis, supra, negates any general principle that a citizen has a privilege to answer fraudulently a question that the Government should not have asked. P. 396 U. S. 72.

3. This case is not distinguishable from Dennis, supra, which is followed here. Pp. 396 U. S. 72-73.

403 F.2d 340, affirmed.

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