Learn About the Law
Get help with your legal needs
FindLaw’s Learn About the Law features thousands of informational articles to help you understand your options. And if you’re ready to hire an attorney, find one in your area who can help.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created in the Executive Branch of the Government a Commission on Civil Rights to investigate written, sworn allegations that persons have been discriminatorily deprived of their right to vote on account of their color, race, religion or national origin, to study and collect information "concerning legal developments constituting a denial of equal protection of the laws," and to report to the President and Congress. The Commission is authorized to subpoena witnesses and documents and to conduct hearings. The Act prescribes certain rules of procedure; but nothing in the Act requires the Commission to afford persons accused of discrimination the right to be apprised as to the specific charges against them or as to the identity of their accusers, or the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses appearing at Commission hearings; and the Commission prescribed supplementary rules of procedure which deny such rights in hearings conducted by it. Held:
[ Footnote * ] Together with No. 550, Hannah et al. v. Slawson et al., on petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Deputy Attorney General Walsh argued the causes for appellants in No. 549 and petitioners in No. 550. On the brief were Solicitor General Rankin, Acting Assistant Attorney General Ryan, Philip Elman, Harold H. Greene and David Rubin.
Jack P. F. Gremillion, Attorney General of Louisiana, argued the cause for appellees in No. 549. With him on the brief were George M. Ponder, First Assistant Attorney General, and Albin P. Lassiter.
W. M. Shaw argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents in No. 550.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
These cases involve the validity of certain Rules of Procedure adopted by the Commission on Civil Rights. which was established by Congress in 1957. 1 Civil Rights Act of 1957, 71 Stat. 634, 42 U.S.C. 1975-1975e. They arise out of the Commission's investigation of alleged Negro voting deprivations in the State of Louisiana. The appellees in No. 549 are registrars of voters in the State of Louisiana, and the respondents in No. 550 are private citizens of Louisiana. 2 After having been summoned to [363 U.S. 420, 422] appear before a hearing which the Commission proposed to conduct in Shreveport, Louisiana, these registrars and private citizens requested the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to enjoin the Commission from holding its anticipated hearing. It was alleged, among other things, that the Commission's Rules of Procedure governing the conduct of its investigations were unconstitutional. The specific rules challenged are those which provide that the identity of persons submitting complaints to the Commission need not be disclosed, and that those summoned to testify before the Commission, including persons against whom complaints have been filed, may not cross-examine other witnesses called by the Commission. The District Court held that the Commission was not authorized to adopt the Rules of Procedure here in question, and therefore issued an injunction which prohibits the Commission from holding any hearings in the Western District of Louisiana as long as the challenged procedures remain in force. The Commission requested this Court to review the District Court's decision. 3 We granted the Commission's motion to advance the cases, and oral argument was accordingly scheduled on the jurisdiction on appeal in No. 549, on the petition for certiorari in No. 550, and on the merits of both cases.
Having heard oral argument as scheduled, we now take jurisdiction in No. 549 and grant certiorari in No. [363 U.S. 420, 423] 550. The specific questions which we must decide are (1) whether the Commission was authorized by Congress to adopt the Rules of Procedure challenged by the respondents, and (2) if so, whether those procedures violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
A description of the events leading up to this litigation is necessary not only to place the legal questions in their proper factual context, but also to indicate the significance of the Commission's proposed Shreveport hearing. During the months prior to its decision to convene the hearing, the Commission had received some sixty-seven complaints from individual Negroes who alleged that they had been discriminatorily deprived of their right to vote. Based upon these complaints, and pursuant to its statutory mandate to "investigate allegations in writing under oath or affirmation that certain citizens of the United States are being deprived of their right to vote and have that vote counted by reason of their color, race, religion, or national origin," 4 the Commission began its investigation into the Louisiana voting situation by making several ex parte attempts to acquire information. Thus, in March 1959, a member of the Commission's staff interviewed the Voting Registrars of Claiborne, Caddo, and Webster Parishes, but obtained little relevant information. During one of these interviews the staff member is alleged to have informed Mrs. Lannie Linton, the Registrar of Claiborne Parish, that the Commission had on file four sworn statements charging her with depriving Negroes of their voting rights solely because of their race. Subsequent to this interview, Mr. W. M. Shaw, Mrs. Linton's personal attorney, wrote a letter to Mr. Gordon M. Tiffany, the Staff Director of the Commission, in which it was asserted that Mrs. Linton knew the sworn complaints lodged against [363 U.S. 420, 424] her to be false. The letter also indicated that Mrs. Linton wished to prefer perjury charges against the affiants, and Mr. Shaw therefore demanded that the Commission forward to him copies of the affidavits so that a proper presentment could be made to the grand jury. On April 14, 1959, Mr. Tiffany replied to Mr. Shaw's letter and indicated that the Commission had denied the request for copies of the sworn affidavits. Mr. Shaw was also informed of the following official statement adopted by the Commission:
Another attempt to obtain information occurred on May 13, 1959, when Mr. Tiffany, upon Commission authorization, sent a list of 315 written interrogatories to Mr. Gremillion. These interrogatories requested very detailed and specific information, and were to be answered by the voting registrars of nineteen Louisiana parishes. Although Mr. Gremillion and the Governor of Louisiana had previously assented to the idea of written interrogatories, on May 28, 1959, Mr. Gremillion sent a letter to [363 U.S. 420, 425] Mr. Tiffany indicating that the voting registrars refused to answer the interrogatories. The reasons given for the refusal were that many of the questions seemed unrelated to the functions of voting registrars, that the questions were neither accompanied by specific complaints nor related to specific complaints, and that the time and research required to answer the questions placed an unreasonable burden upon the voting registrars.
In response to this refusal, on May 29, 1959, Mr. Tiffany sent a telegram to Mr. Gremillion, informing the latter that the interrogatories were based upon specific allegations received by the Commission, and reaffirming the Commission's position that the identity of specific complainants would not be disclosed. Mr. Tiffany's letter contained a further request that the interrogatories be answered and sent to the Commission by June 5, 1959. On June 2, 1959, Mr. Gremillion wrote a letter to Mr. Tiffany reiterating the registrars' refusal, and again requesting that the names of complainants be disclosed.
Finally, as a result of this exchange of correspondence, and because the Commission's attempts to obtain information ex parte had been frustrated, the Commission, acting pursuant to Section 105 (f) of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, 5 decided to hold the Shreveport hearing commencing on July 13, 1959. [363 U.S. 420, 426]
Notice of the scheduled hearing was sent to Mr. Gremillion, and between June 29 and July 6, subpoenas duces tecum were served on the respondents in No. 549, ordering them to appear at the hearing and to bring with them various voting and registration records within their custody and control. Subpoenas were also served upon the respondents in No. 550. These private citizens were apparently summoned to explain their activities with regard to alleged deprivations of Negro voting rights. 6
On July 8, 1959, Mr. Tiffany wrote to Mr. Gremillion, enclosing copies of the Civil Rights Act and of the Commission's Rules of Procedure. 7 Mr. Gremillion's attention was also drawn to Section 102 (h) of the Civil Rights Act, which permits witnesses to submit, subject to the discretion of the Commission, brief and pertinent sworn statements for inclusion in the record. 8
Two days later, on July 10, 1959, the respondents in No. 549 and No. 550 filed two separate complaints in the District [363 U.S. 420, 427] Court for the Western District of Louisiana. Both complaints alleged that the respondents would suffer irreparable harm by virtue of the Commission's refusal to furnish the names of persons who had filed allegations of voting deprivations, as well as the contents of the allegations, and by its further refusal to permit the respondents to confront and cross-examine the persons making such allegations. In addition, both complaints alleged that the Commission's refusals not only violated numerous provisions of the Federal Constitution, but also constituted "ultra vires" acts not authorized either by Congress or the Chief Executive. The respondents in No. 549 also alleged that they could not comply with the subpoenas duces tecum because Louisiana law prohibited voting registrars from removing their voting records except "upon an order of a competent court," and because the Commission was not such a "court." Finally, the complaint in No. 549 alleged that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional because it did not constitute "appropriate legislation within the meaning of Section (2) of the XV Amendment."
Both complaints sought a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction prohibiting the members of the Commission (a) from compelling the "testimony from or the production of any records" by the respondents until copies of the sworn charges, together with the names and addresses of the persons filing such charges were given to the respondents; 9 (b) from "conducting any hearing pursuant to the rules and regulations adopted by" the Commission; and (c) from "conspiring together . . . or with any other person . . . to deny complainants their rights and privileges as citizens" of Louisiana or the [363 U.S. 420, 428] United States "or to deny to complainants their right to be confronted by their accusers, to know the nature and character of the charges made against them," and to be represented by counsel. The complaint in No. 549 also sought a declaratory judgment that the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was unconstitutional.
On the day that the complaints were filed, the district judge held a combined hearing on the prayers for temporary restraining orders. On July 12, 1959, he found that the respondents would suffer irreparable harm if the hearings were held as scheduled, and he therefore issued the requested temporary restraining orders and rules to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not be granted. Larche v. Hannah, 176 F. Supp. 791. The order prohibited the Commission from holding any hearings which concerned the respondents or others similarly situated until a determination was made on the motion for a preliminary injunction.
Inasmuch as the complaint in No. 549 attacked the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, a three-judge court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2282. Since the complaint in No. 550 did not challenge the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, that case was scheduled to be heard by a single district judge. That district judge was also a member of the three-judge panel in No. 549, and a combined hearing was therefore held on both cases on August 7, 1959.
On October 7, 1959, a divided three-judge District Court filed an opinion in No. 549. Larche v. Hannah, 177 F. Supp. 816. The court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was constitutional since it "very definitely constitutes appropriate legislation" authorized by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and Article I, Section 2, of the Federal Constitution. Id., at 821. The court then held that since the respondents' allegations with regard to apprisal, confrontation, and cross-examination [363 U.S. 420, 429] raised a "serious constitutional issue," this Court's decision in Greene v. McElroy, 360 U.S. 474 , required a preliminary determination as to whether Congress specifically authorized the Commission "to adopt rules for investigations . . . which would deprive parties investigated of their rights of confrontation and cross-examination and their right to be apprised of the charges against them." 177 F. Supp., at 822. The court found that Congress had not so authorized the Commission, and an injunction was therefore issued. In deciding the case on the issue of authorization, the court never reached the "serious constitutional issue" raised by the respondents' allegations. 10 The injunction prohibits the Commission from holding any hearing in the Western District of Louisiana wherein the registrars, "accused of depriving others of the right to vote, would be denied the right of apprisal, confrontation, and cross examination." 11 The single district [363 U.S. 420, 430] judge rendered a decision in No. 550 incorporating by reference the opinion of the three-judge District Court, and an injunction, identical in substance to that entered in No. 549, was issued.
We held last Term in Greene v. McElroy, supra, that when action taken by an inferior governmental agency was accomplished by procedures which raise serious constitutional questions, an initial inquiry will be made to determine whether or not "the President or Congress, within their respective constitutional powers, specifically has decided that the imposed procedures are necessary and warranted and has authorized their use." Id., at 507. The considerations which prompted us in Greene to analyze the question of authorization before reaching the constitutional issues presented are no less pertinent in this case. Obviously, if the Civil Rights Commission was not authorized to adopt the procedures complained of by the respondents, the case could be disposed of without a premature determination of serious constitutional questions. See Vitarelli v. Seaton, 359 U.S. 535 ; Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116 ; Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 ; Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 .
We therefore consider first the question of authorization. As indicated above, the Commission specifically refused to disclose to the respondents the identity of persons who had submitted sworn complaints to the Commission and the specific charges contained in those complaints. Moreover, the respondents were informed by the Commission that they would not be permitted to cross-examine [363 U.S. 420, 431] any witnesses at the hearing. The respondents contend, and the court below held, that Congress did not authorize the adoption of procedural rules which would deprive those being investigated by the Commission of the rights to apprisal, confrontation, and cross-examination. The court's holding is best summarized by the following language from its opinion:
It could not be said that Congress ignored the procedures which the Commission was to follow in conducting its hearings. Section 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 lists a number of procedural rights intended to safeguard witnesses from potential abuses. Briefly summarized, the relevant subdivisions of Section 102 provide that the Chairman shall make an opening statement as to the subject of the hearing; that a copy of the Commission's rules shall be made available to witnesses; that witnesses "may be accompanied by their own counsel for the purpose of advising them concerning their constitutional rights"; that potentially defamatory, degrading, or incriminating testimony shall be received in executive session, and [363 U.S. 420, 432] that any person defamed, degraded, or incriminated by such testimony shall have an opportunity to appear voluntarily as a witness and to request the Commission to subpoena additional witnesses; that testimony taken in executive session shall be released only upon the consent of the Commission; and that witnesses may submit brief and pertinent sworn statements in writing for inclusion in the record. 12 [363 U.S. 420, 433]
The absence of any reference to apprisal, confrontation, and cross-examination, in addition to the fact that counsel's role is specifically limited to advising witnesses of their constitutional rights, creates a presumption that Congress did not intend witnesses appearing before the Commission to have the rights claimed by respondents. This initial presumption is strengthened beyond any [363 U.S. 420, 434] reasonable doubt by an investigation of the legislative history of the Act.
The complete story of the 1957 Act begins with the 1956 House Civil Rights Bill, H. R. 627. That bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee without any reference to the procedures to be used by the Commission in conducting its hearings. H. R. Rep. No. 2187, 84th Cong., 2d Sess. During the floor debate, Representative Dies of Texas introduced extensive amendments designed to regulate the procedure of Commission hearings. 102 Cong. Rec. 13542. Those amendments would have guaranteed to witnesses appearing before the Commission all of the rights claimed by the respondents in these cases. The amendments provided, in pertinent part, that a person who might be adversely affected by the testimony of another "shall be fully advised by the [363 U.S. 420, 435] Commission as to the matters into which the Commission proposes to inquire and the adverse material which is proposed to be presented"; that a person adversely affected by evidence or testimony given at a public hearing could "appear and testify or file a sworn statement in his own behalf"; that such a person could also "have the adverse witness recalled" within a stated time; and that he or his counsel could cross-examine adverse witnesses. 13 [363 U.S. 420, 436]
The bill, as finally passed by the House, contained all of the amendments proposed by Representative Dies. 102 Cong. Rec. 13998-13999. However, before further action could be taken, the bill died in the Senate. Although many proposals relating to civil rights were introduced in the 1957 Session of Congress, two bills became the prominent contenders for support. One was S. 83, a bill introduced by Senator Dirksen containing the same procedural provisions that the amended House bill in 1956 had contained. The other bill, H. R. 6127, was introduced by Representative Celler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and this bill incorporated the so-called House "fair play" rules as the procedures which should govern the conduct of Commission hearings. 14 After extensive debate and hearings, H. R. 6127 [363 U.S. 420, 437] was finally passed by both Houses of Congress, and the House "fair play" rules, which make no provision for advance notice, confrontation, or cross-examination, were adopted in preference to the more protective rules suggested in S. 83. 15 [363 U.S. 420, 438]
The legislative background of the Civil Rights Act not only provides evidence of congressional authorization, but it also distinguishes these cases from Greene v. McElroy, supra, upon which the court below relied so heavily. In Greene there was no express authorization by Congress or the President for the Department of Defense to adopt the type of security clearance program there involved. Nor was there any legislative history or executive directive indicating that the Secretary of Defense was authorized to establish a security clearance program which could deprive a person of his government employment on the basis of secret and undisclosed information. Therefore, we concluded in Greene that because of the serious constitutional problems presented, mere acquiescence by the President or the Congress would not be sufficient to constitute authorization [363 U.S. 420, 439] for the security clearance procedures adopted by the Secretary of Defense. The facts of this case present a sharp contrast to those before the Court in Greene. Here, we have substantially more than the mere acquiescence upon which the Government relied in Greene. There was a conscious, intentional selection by Congress of one bill, providing for none of the procedures demanded by respondents, over another bill, which provided for all of those procedures. We have no doubt that Congress' consideration and rejection of the procedures here at issue constituted an authorization to the Commission to conduct its hearings according to the Rules of Procedure it has adopted, and to deny to witnesses the rights of apprisal, confrontation, and cross-examination. [363 U.S. 420, 440]
The existence of authorization inevitably requires us to determine whether the Commission's Rules of Procedure are consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. 16
Since the requirements of due process frequently vary with the type of proceeding involved, e. g., compare Opp Cotton Mills, Inc. v. Administrator, 312 U.S. 126, 152 , with Interstate Commerce Comm'n v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 227 U.S. 88, 91 , we think it is necessary at the outset to ascertain both the nature and function of this Commission. Section 104 of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 specifies the duties to be performed by the Commission. Those duties consist of (1) investigating written, sworn allegations that anyone has been discriminatorily deprived of his right to vote; (2) studying and collecting information "concerning legal developments constituting a denial of equal protection of the laws under the Constitution"; and (3) reporting to the President and Congress on its activities, findings, and recommendations. 17 As is apparent [363 U.S. 420, 441] from this brief sketch of the statutory duties imposed upon the Commission, its function is purely investigative and fact-finding. It does not adjudicate. It does not hold trials or determine anyone's civil or criminal liability. It does not issue orders. Nor does it indict, punish, or impose any legal sanctions. It does not make determinations depriving anyone of his life, liberty, or property. In short, the Commission does not and cannot take any affirmative action which will affect an individual's legal rights. The only purpose of its existence is to find facts which may subsequently be used as the basis for legislative or executive action.
The specific constitutional question, therefore, is whether persons whose conduct is under investigation by a governmental agency of this nature are entitled, by virtue of the Due Process Clause, to know the specific charges that are being investigated, as well as the identity of the complainants, 18 and to have the right to cross-examine [363 U.S. 420, 442] those complainants and other witnesses. Although these procedures are very desirable in some situations, for the reasons which we shall now indicate, we are of the opinion that they are not constitutionally required in the proceedings of this Commission.
On the other hand, the investigative process could be completely disrupted if investigative hearings were transformed into trial-like proceedings, and if persons who might be indirectly affected by an investigation were given an absolute right to cross-examine every witness called to testify. Fact-finding agencies without any power to adjudicate would be diverted from their legitimate duties and would be plagued by the injection of collateral issues that would make the investigation interminable. Even a person not called as a witness could demand the right to appear at the hearing, cross-examine any witness whose testimony or sworn affidavit allegedly defamed or incriminated him, and call an unlimited number of witnesses of [363 U.S. 420, 444] his own selection. 20 This type of proceeding would make a shambles of the investigation and stifle the agency in its gathering of facts.
In addition to these persuasive considerations, we think it is highly significant that the Commission's procedures are not historically foreign to other forms of investigation under our system. Far from being unique, the Rules of Procedure adopted by the Commission are similar to those which, as shown by the Appendix to this opinion, 21 have traditionally governed the proceedings of the vast majority of governmental investigating agencies.
A frequently used type of investigative agency is the legislative committee. The investigative function of such committees is as old as the Republic. 22 The volumes written about legislative investigations have proliferated almost as rapidly as the legislative committees themselves, and the courts have on more than one occasion been confronted with the legal problems presented by such committees. 23 The procedures adopted by legislative investigating [363 U.S. 420, 445] committees have varied over the course of years. Yet, the history of these committees clearly demonstrates that only infrequently have witnesses appearing before congressional committees been afforded the procedural rights normally associated with an adjudicative proceeding. In the vast majority of instances, congressional committees have not given witnesses detailed notice or an opportunity to confront, cross-examine and call other witnesses. 24
The history of investigations conducted by the executive branch of the Government is also marked by a decided absence of those procedures here in issue. 25 The best example is provided by the administrative regulatory agencies. Although these agencies normally make determinations of a quasi-judicial nature, they also frequently conduct purely fact-finding investigations. When doing the former, they are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act, 60 Stat. 237, 5 U.S.C. 1001-1011, and the parties to the adjudication are accorded the traditional safeguards of a trial. However, when [363 U.S. 420, 446] these agencies are conducting nonadjudicative, fact-finding investigations, rights such as apprisal, confrontation, and cross-examination generally do not obtain.
A typical agency is the Federal Trade Commission. Its rules draw a clear distinction between adjudicative proceedings and investigative proceedings. 16 CFR, 1958 Supp., 1.34. Although the latter are frequently initiated by complaints from undisclosed informants, id., 1.11, 1.15, and although the Commission may use the information obtained during investigations to initiate adjudicative proceedings, id., 1.42, nevertheless, persons summoned to appear before investigative proceedings are entitled only to a general notice of "the purpose and scope of the investigation," id., 1.33, and while they may have the advice of counsel, "counsel may not, as a matter of right, otherwise participate in the investigation." Id., 1.40. The reason for these rules is obvious. The Federal Trade Commission could not conduct an efficient investigation if persons being investigated were permitted to convert the investigation into a trial. We have found no authorities suggesting that the rules governing Federal Trade Commission investigations violate the Constitution, and this is understandable since any person investigated by the Federal Trade Commission will be accorded all the traditional judicial safeguards at a subsequent adjudicative proceeding, just as any person investigated by the Civil Rights Commission will have all of these safeguards, should some type of adjudicative proceeding subsequently be instituted.
Another regulatory agency which distinguishes between adjudicative and investigative proceedings is the Securities and Exchange Commission. This Commission conducts numerous investigations, many of which are initiated by complaints from private parties. 17 CFR 202.4. Although the Commission's Rules provide that parties to adjudicative proceedings shall be given detailed [363 U.S. 420, 447] notice of the matters to be determined, id., 1959 Supp., 201.3, and a right to cross-examine witnesses appearing at the hearing, id., 201.5, those provisions of the Rules are made specifically inapplicable to investigations, id., 201.20, 26 even though the Commission is required to [363 U.S. 420, 448] initiate civil or criminal proceedings if an investigation discloses violations of law. 27 Undoubtedly, the reason for this distinction is to prevent the sterilization of investigations by burdening them with trial-like procedures.
Another type of executive agency which frequently conducts investigations is the presidential commission. Although a survey of these commissions presents no definite pattern of practice, each commission has generally been permitted to adopt whatever rules of procedure seem appropriate to it, 28 and it is clear that many of the most famous presidential commissions have adopted rules similar to those governing the proceedings of the Civil Rights Commission. 29 For example, the Roberts Commission established in 1941 to ascertain the facts relating to the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor, and to determine whether the success of the attack resulted from any derelictions of duty on the part of American military personnel, did not permit any of the parties involved in the investigation to cross-examine other witnesses. In fact, many of the persons whose conduct was being investigated were not represented by counsel and were not present during the interrogation of other witnesses. Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., pts. 22-25.
Having considered the procedures traditionally followed by executive and legislative investigating agencies, we think it would be profitable at this point to discuss the oldest and, perhaps, the best known of all investigative bodies, the grand jury. It has never been considered necessary to grant a witness summoned before the grand [363 U.S. 420, 449] jury the right to refuse to testify merely because he did not have access to the identity and testimony of prior witnesses. Nor has it ever been considered essential that a person being investigated by the grand jury be permitted to come before that body and cross-examine witnesses who may have accused him of wrongdoing. Undoubtedly, the procedural rights claimed by the respondents have not been extended to grand jury hearings because of the disruptive influence their injection would have on the proceedings, and also because the grand jury merely investigates and reports. It does not try.
We think it is fairly clear from this survey of various phases of governmental investigation that witnesses appearing before investigating agencies, whether legislative, executive, or judicial, have generally not been accorded the rights of apprisal, confrontation, or cross-examination. Although we do not suggest that the grand jury and the congressional investigating committee are identical in all respects to the Civil Rights Commission, 30 we mention them, in addition to the executive agencies and commissions created by Congress, to show that the rules of this Commission are not alien to those which have historically governed the procedure of investigations conducted by agencies in the three major branches of our Government. The logic behind this historical practice was recognized and described by Mr. Justice Cardozo's landmark opinion in Norwegian Nitrogen Products Co. v. United States, 288 U.S. 294 . In that [363 U.S. 420, 450] case, the Court was concerned with the type of hearing that the Tariff Commission was required to hold when conducting its investigations. Specifically, the Court was asked to decide whether the Tariff Act of 1922, 42 Stat. 858, gave witnesses appearing before the Commission the right to examine confidential information in the Commission files and to cross-examine other witnesses testifying at Commission hearings. Although the Court did not phrase its holding in terms of due process, we think that the following language from Mr. Justice Cardozo's opinion is significant:
Nor do the authorities cited by respondents support their position. They rely primarily upon Morgan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1 ; Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm. v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123 ; and Greene v. McElroy, supra. Those cases are all distinguishable in that the government agency involved in each was found by the Court to have made determinations in the nature of adjudications affecting legal rights. Thus, in Morgan, the action of the Secretary of Agriculture in fixing the maximum rates to be charged by market agencies at stockyards was challenged. In voiding the order of the Secretary for his failure to conduct a trial-like hearing, the Court referred to the adjudicatory nature of the proceeding:
The respondents have also contended that the Civil Rights Act of 1957 is inappropriate legislation under the Fifteenth Amendment. We have considered this argument, and we find it to be without merit. It would unduly lengthen this opinion to add anything to the District Court's disposition of this claim. See 177 F. Supp., at 819-821.
Respondents' final argument is that the Commission's hearings should be governed by Section 7 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 60 Stat. 241, 5 U.S.C. 1006, which specifies the hearing procedures to be used by agencies falling within the coverage of the Act. One of those procedures is the right of every party to conduct "such cross-examination as may be required for a full and true disclosure of the facts." However, what the respondents fail to recognize is that Section 7, by its terms, applies only to proceedings under Section 4, 60 Stat. 238, 5 U.S.C. 1003 (rule making), and Section 5, 60 Stat. [363 U.S. 420, 453] 239, 5 U.S.C. 1004 (adjudications), of the Act. As we have already indicated, the Civil Rights Commission performs none of the functions specified in those sections.
From what we have said, it is obvious that the District Court erred in both cases in enjoining the Commission from holding its Shreveport hearing. The court's judgments are accordingly reversed, and the cases are remanded with direction to vacate the injunctions.
[For concurring opinion of MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, joined by MR. JUSTICE CLARK, see post, p. 493.]
[For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, joined by MR. JUSTICE BLACK, see post, p. 493.] [363 U.S. 420, 454]
[ Footnote 2 ] The appellants in No. 549 and the petitioners in No. 550 are the individual members of the Civil Rights Commission. Hereinafter, [363 U.S. 420, 422] they will be referred to as "the Commission." The appellees in No. 549 and the respondents in No. 550 will both hereinafter be referred to as "respondents."
[ Footnote 3 ] Because No. 549 was heard and decided by a three-judge District Court, a direct appeal to this Court was sought by the Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1253. The Commission also filed an appeal in No. 550 with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. However, before the Court of Appeals could render a decision in No. 550, the Commission filed a petition for certiorari pursuant to Rule 20 of this Court.
[ Footnote 4 ] Section 104 of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, 71 Stat. 635, 42 U.S.C. 1975c (a) (1).
[ Footnote 5 ] Section 105 (f) of the Civil Rights Act authorizes the Commission to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses. That section provides:
[ Footnote 6 ] The role of private citizens in depriving Negroes of their right to vote was one of the questions involved in United States v. McElveen, 180 F. Supp. 10 (E. D. La.), aff'd as to defendant Thomas, 362 U.S. 58 .
[ Footnote 7 ] Rule 3 (i) of the Commission's Rules of Procedure, adopted on July 1, 1958, prohibits witnesses or their counsel from cross-examining other witnesses. That Rule reads:
[ Footnote 8 ] The full text of Section 102 (h) of the Civil Rights Act reads as follows:
[ Footnote 9 ] Under the Civil Rights Act, the Commission not only has the power to issue subpoenas under Section 105 (f), but, as is customary when Congress confers the subpoena power on an investigative agency, the Commission is also authorized to enforce its subpoenas by enlisting the aid of the federal courts. 71 Stat. 636, 42 U.S.C. 1975d (g).
[ Footnote 10 ] Judge Wisdom, who dissented, was of the opinion that the procedures adopted by the Commission were authorized by Congress, and that those procedures were also constitutional. 177 F. Supp., at 828.
[ Footnote 11 ] The court's injunction reads as follows:
[ Footnote 12 ] The complete text of Section 102 reads as follows:
[ Footnote 13 ] The amendments introduced by Representative Dies read, in pertinent part, as follows:
[ Footnote 14 ] The complete text of the House "fair play" rules may be found in H. Res. 151, 84th Cong., 1st Sess.
[ Footnote 15 ] That Congress focused upon the issues here involved and recognized the distinctions between H. R. 6127 and S. 83 is attested to by the following extracts from the floor debate and committee hearings:
In testifying before both the House and Senate Subcommittees considering the various proposed civil rights bills, Attorney General Brownell supported the adoption of the House "fair play" rules instead of the more restrictive procedures outlined in S. 83. Thus, at the Senate hearings, the Attorney General made the following statement:
The lack of any right to cross-examine witnesses was commented upon by members of both the House and the Senate:
Statement of Senator Talmadge during the Senate floor debate, 103 Cong. Rec. 11504:
[ Footnote 16 ] Although the respondents contend that the procedures adopted by the Commission also violate their rights under the Sixth Amendment, their claim does not merit extensive discussion. That Amendment is specifically limited to "criminal prosecutions," and the proceedings of the Commission clearly do not fall within that category. See United States v. Zucker, 161 U.S. 475, 481 .
[ Footnote 17 ] The full text of Section 104 of the Act reads as follows:
[ Footnote 18 ] It should be noted that the respondents in these cases did have notice of the general nature of the inquiry. The only information withheld from them was the identity of specific complainants and the exact charges made by those complainants. Because most of the charges related to the denial of individual voting rights, it is apparent that the Commission could not have disclosed the exact charges without also revealing the names of the complainants.
[ Footnote 19 ] Cf. Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 295 , holding that Congress' legitimate right to investigate is not affected by the fact that information disclosed at the investigation may also be used in a subsequent criminal prosecution. Cf. also McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135, 179 -180, holding that a regular congressional investigation is not rendered invalid merely because "it might possibly disclose crime or wrongdoing" on the part of witnesses summoned to appear at the investigation. Id., at 180.
[ Footnote 20 ] The injunction issued by the court below would certainly lead to this result since it prohibits the Commission from conducting any hearing under existing procedure, even though those being investigated are not summoned to testify.
[ Footnote 21 ] A compilation of the rules of procedure governing the investigative proceedings of a representative group of administrative and executive agencies, presidential commissions, and congressional committees is set out in the Appendix to this opinion, post, p. 454.
[ Footnote 22 ] The first full-fledged congressional investigating committee was established in 1792 to "inquire into the causes of the failure of the late expedition under Major General St. Clair." 3 Annals of Cong. 493 (1792). The development and use of legislative investigation by the colonial governments is discussed in Eberling, Congressional Investigations, 13-30. The English origin of legislative investigation in this country is discussed in Dimock, Congressional Investigating Committees, 46-56.
[ Footnote 23 ] See, e. g., Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168 ; McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 ; Sinclair v. United States. 279 U.S. 263 ; Christoffel v. United States, 338 U.S. 84 ; United States v. Bryan. [363 U.S. 420, 445] 339 U.S. 323 ; United States v. Fleischman, 339 U.S. 349 ; Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 ; Barenblatt v. United States, 360 U.S. 109 .
[ Footnote 24 ] See Appendix, post. pp. 478-485. See also Dimock, Congressional Investigating Committees, 153; Eberling, Congressional Investigations, 283, 390; McGeary, The Developments of Congressional Investigative Power, 80; Liacos, Rights of Witnesses Before Congressional Committees, 33 B. U. L. Rev. 337, 359-361; American Bar Association, Special Committee on Individual Rights as Affected by National Security, Appendix to Report on Congressional Investigations, 67-68.
The English practice is described in Clokie and Robinson, Royal Commissions of Inquiry; Finer, Congressional Investigations: The British System, 18 U. of Chi. L. Rev. 521; Keeton, Parliamentary Tribunals of Inquiry, in Vol. 12, Current Legal Problems 1959, 12.
[ Footnote 25 ] See Appendix, post, pp. 454-471. See also Gellhorn, Federal Administrative Proceedings, 108; Report of the Attorney General's Committee on Administrative Procedure and the various Monographs written by that Committee.
[ Footnote 26 ] The Commission's practice with regard to investigations was described by the Attorney General's Committee on Administrative Procedure, Monograph, Securities Exchange Commission, 34-41. The following extract is pertinent here:
[ Footnote 27 ] Loss, Securities Regulation (1951), 1153. See also the statutes cited in the Appendix, post, p. 463.
[ Footnote 28 ] Marcy, Presidential Commissions, 97-101.
[ Footnote 29 ] See Appendix, post, pp. 472-479.
[ Footnote 30 ] However, the courts have on more than one occasion likened investigative agencies of the executive branch of Government to a grand jury. See, e. g., United States v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632, 642 ; Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 216 ; Consolidated Mines of Calif. v. Securities & Exchange Comm'n. 97 F.2d 704, 708 (C. A. 9th Cir.); Woolley v. United States, 97 F.2d 258, 262 (C. A. 9th Cir.).
[ Footnote 31 ] The Commission cites In re Groban, 352 U.S. 330 , and Anonymous v. Baker, 360 U.S. 287 , in support of its position. Each of us who participated in those cases adheres to the view to which he subscribed therein. However, because there are significant differences between the Groban and Anonymous cases and the instant litigation, and because the result we reach today is supported by the other considerations analyzed herein, the Court does not find it necessary to discuss either of those cases. [363 U.S. 420, 486]
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, concurring in the result.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights, in exercising powers granted to it by the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (71 Stat. 635, 42 U.S.C. 1975c), scheduled a hearing to be held by it in Shreveport, Louisiana, on July 13, 1959. By these two actions judgments were sought to declare the proposed hearing illegal and to restrain the members of the Commission from holding it.
The rules of procedure formulated by the Commission amply rest on leave of Congress. I need add nothing on this phase of the case to the Court's opinion. While it is a most salutary doctrine of constitutional adjudication to give a statute even a strained construction to avoid facing a serious doubt of constitutionality, "avoidance of a difficulty will not be pressed to the point of disingenuous evasion. Here the intention of the Congress is revealed too distinctly to permit us to ignore it because of mere misgivings as to power. The problem must be faced and answered." Moore Ice Cream Co. v. Rose, 289 U.S. 373, 379 . I have no such misgivings in the situation before us. I also agree with the Court's conclusion in rejecting the constitutional claims of the plaintiffs. In view, however, of divergencies between the Court's analysis and mine of the specific issues before us, including the authoritative relevance of In re Groban, 352 U.S. 330 , and Anonymous No. 6 v. Baker, 360 U.S. 287 , I state my reasons for agreement.
To conduct the Shreveport hearing on the basis of sworn allegations of wrongdoing by the plaintiffs, without submitting to them these allegations and disclosing the identities of the affiants, would, it is claimed, violate the Constitution. The issue thus raised turns exclusively on the application of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The Commission's hearings are not proceedings requiring a person to answer for an "infamous crime," which must be based on an indictment of a grand [363 U.S. 420, 487] jury (Amendment V), nor are they "criminal prosecutions" giving an accused the rights defined by Amendment VI. Since due process is the constitutional axis on which decision must turn, our concern is not with absolutes, either of governmental power or of safeguards protecting individuals. Inquiry must be directed to the validity of the adjustment between these clashing interests - that of Government and of the individual, respectively - in the procedural scheme devised by the Congress and the Commission. Whether the scheme satisfies those strivings for justice which due process guarantees, must be judged in the light of reason drawn from the considerations of fairness that reflect our traditions of legal and political thought, duly related to the public interest Congress sought to meet by this legislation as against the hazards or hardship to the individual that the Commission procedure would entail.
Barring rare lapses, this Court has not unduly confined those who have the responsibility of governing within a doctrinaire conception of "due process." The Court has been mindful of the manifold variety and perplexity of the tasks which the Constitution has vested in the legislative and executive branches of the Government by recognizing that what is unfair in one situation may be fair in another. Compare, for instance, Murray's Lessee v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Co., 18 How. 272, with Ng Fung Ho v. White, 259 U.S. 276 , and see Communications Comm'n v. WJR, 337 U.S. 265, 275 . Whether the procedure now questioned offends "the rudiments of fair play," Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co. v. Polt, 232 U.S. 165, 168 , is not to be tested by loose generalities or sentiments abstractly appealing. The precise nature of the interest alleged to be adversely affected or of the freedom of action claimed to be curtailed, the manner in which this is to be done and the reasons for doing it, the balance of individual hurt and the justifying public good - these and such like are the [363 U.S. 420, 488] considerations, avowed or implicit, that determine the judicial judgment when appeal is made to "due process."
The proposed Shreveport hearing creates risks of harm to the plaintiffs. It is likewise true that, were the plaintiffs afforded the procedural rights they seek, they would have a greater opportunity to reduce these risks than will be theirs under the questioned rules of the Commission. Some charges touching the plaintiffs might be withdrawn or modified, if those making them knew that their identities and the content of their charges were to be revealed. By the safeguards they seek the plaintiffs might use the hearing as a forum for subjecting the charges against them to a scrutiny that might disprove them or, at least, establish that they are not incompatible with innocent conduct.
Were the Commission exercising an accusatory function, were its duty to find that named individuals were responsible for wrongful deprivation of voting rights and to advertise such finding or to serve as part of the process of criminal prosecution, the rigorous protections relevant to criminal prosecutions might well be the controlling starting point for assessing the protection which the Commission's procedure provides. The objectives of the Commission on Civil Rights, the purpose of its creation, and its true functioning are quite otherwise. It is not charged with official judgment on individuals nor are its inquiries so directed. The purpose of its investigations is to develop facts upon which legislation may be based. As such, its investigations are directed to those concerns that are the normal impulse to legislation and the basis for it. To impose upon the Commission's investigations the safeguards appropriate to inquiries into individual blameworthiness would be to divert and frustrate its purpose. Its investigation would be turned into a forum for the litigation of individual culpability - matters which are not within the keeping [363 U.S. 420, 489] of the Commission, with which it is not effectively equipped to deal, and which would deflect it from the purpose for which it was within its limited life established.
We would be shutting our eyes to actualities to be unmindful of the fact that it would dissuade sources of vitally relevant information from making that information known to the Commission, if the Commission were required to reveal its sources and subject them to cross-examination. This would not be a valid consideration for secrecy were the Commission charged with passing official incriminatory or even defamatory judgment on individuals. Since the Commission is merely an investigatorial arm of Congress, the narrow risk of unintended harm to the individual is outweighed by the legislative justification for permitting the Commission to be the critic and protector of the information given it. It would be wrong not to assume that the Commission will responsibly scrutinize the reliability of sworn allegations that are to serve as the basis for further investigation and that it will be rigorously vigilant to protect the fair name of those brought into question.
In appraising the constitutionally permissive investigative procedure claimed to subject individuals to incrimination or defamation without adequate opportunity for defense, a relevant distinction is between those proceedings which are preliminaries to official judgments on individuals and those, like the investigation of this Commission, charged with responsibility to gather information as a solid foundation for legislative action. Judgments by the Commission condemning or stigmatizing individuals are not called for. When official pronouncements on individuals purport to rest on evidence and investigation, it is right to demand that those so accused be given a full opportunity for their defense in such investigation, excepting, of course, grand jury investigations. The functions of that institution and its constitutional prerogatives [363 U.S. 420, 490] are rooted in long centuries of Anglo-American history. On the other hand, to require the introduction of adversary contests relevant to determination of individual guilt into what is in effect a legislative investigation is bound to thwart it by turning it into a serious digression from its purpose.
The cases in which this Court has recently considered claims to procedural rights in investigative inquiries alleged to deal unfairly with the reputation of individuals or to incriminate them, have made clear that the fairness of their procedures is to be judged in light of the purpose of the inquiry, and, more particularly, whether its essential objective is official judgment on individuals under scrutiny. Such a case was Greene v. McElroy, 360 U.S. 474 . There the inquiry was for the purpose of determining whether the security clearance of a particular person was to be revoked. A denial of clearance would shut him off from the opportunity of access to a wide field of employment. The Court concluded that serious constitutional questions were raised by denial of the rights to confront accusatory witnesses and to have access to unfavorable reports on the basis of which the very livelihood of an individual would be gravely jeopardized. Again, Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123 , presented a contrasting situation to the one before us. The Government there sought through the Attorney General to designate organizations as "Communist," thus furnishing grounds on which to discharge their members from government employment. No notice was given of the charges against the organizations nor were they given an opportunity to establish the innocence of their aims and acts. It was well within the realities to say of what was under scrutiny in Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath that "It would be blindness . . . not to recognize that in the conditions of our time such designation drastically restricts [363 U.S. 420, 491] the organizations, if it does not proscribe them." 341 U.S., at 161 (concurring opinion). And the procedure which was found constitutionally wanting in that case could be fairly characterized as action "to maim or decapitate, on the mere say-so of the Attorney General, an organization to all outward-seeming engaged in lawful objectives . . . ." Ibid. Nothing like such characterization can remotely be made regarding the procedure for the proposed inquiry of the Commission on Civil Rights.
Contrariwise, decisions arising under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment strongly support the constitutionality of what is here challenged, where the purposes were as here truly investigatorial. Thus, In re Groban, 352 U.S. 330 , sustained inquiry by the Ohio State Fire Marshal into the causes of a fire while excluding counsel of subpoenaed witnesses on whose premises the fire occurred. The Court so held even though the Fire Marshal had authority, after questioning a witness, to arrest him if he believed there was sufficient evidence to charge him with arson. The guiding consideration was that, although suspects might be discovered, the essential purpose of the Fire Marshal's inquiry was not to adjudicate individual responsibility for the fire but to pursue a legislative policy of fire prevention through the discovery of the origins of fires. This decision was applied in Anonymous No. 6 v. Baker, 360 U.S. 287 , which concerned "a state judicial Inquiry into alleged improper practices at the local bar" (at p. 288). Rejecting the claim based on the consideration that the inquiry might serve as a groundwork for the prosecution of witnesses called before it, the Court applied Groban because the inquiry was a general one and appellants were before it not as potential accused but "solely as witnesses." The proposed investigation of the Commission on Civil Rights is much less likely to result in prosecution of witnesses before it than were the investigations in Groban and [363 U.S. 420, 492] Baker. Just as surely, there is not present in the cases now before us a drastic official judgment, as in Greene and Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, where the Court deemed it necessary to insure that full opportunity for defense be accorded to individuals who were the specific, adverse targets of the secret process.
Moreover, the limited, investigatorial scope of the challenged hearing is carefully hedged in with protections for the plaintiffs. They will have the right to be accompanied by counsel. The rules insure that they will be made aware of the subject of the hearings. They will have the right to appeal to the Commission's power to subpoena additional witnesses. The rules significantly direct the Commission to abstain from public exposure by taking in executive session any evidence or testimony tending "to defame, degrade, or incriminate any person." A person so affected is given the right to read such evidence and to reply to it. These detailed provisions are obviously designed as safeguards against injury to persons who appear in public hearings before the Commission. The provision for screening defamatory and incriminatory testimony in order to keep it from the public may well be contrasted with the procedure in the Joint Anti-Fascist case, where the very purpose of the inquiry was to make an official judgment that certain organizations were "Communist." Such condemnation of an organization would of course taint its members. The rules of the Commission manifest a sense of its responsibility in carrying out the limited investigatorial task confided to it. It is not a constitutional requirement that the Commission be argumentatively turned into a forum for trial of the truth of particular allegations of denial of voting rights in order thereby to invalidate its functioning. Such an inadmissible transformation of the Commission's function is in essence what is involved in the claims of the plaintiffs. Congress has entrusted the Commission with a very different [363 U.S. 420, 493] role - that of investigating and appraising general conditions and reporting them to Congress so as to inform the legislative judgment. Resort to a legislative commission as a vehicle for proposing well-founded legislation and recommending its passage to Congress has ample precedent.
Finally it should be noted that arguments directed either at the assumed novelty of employing the Commission in the area of legislative interest which led Congress to its establishment, or at the fact that the source of the Commission's procedures were those long used by Committees of Congress, are not particularly relevant. History may satisfy constitutionality, but constitutionality need not produce the title deeds of history. Mere age may establish due process, but due process does not preclude new ends of government or new means for achieving them. Since the Commission has, within its legislative framework, provided procedural safeguards appropriate to its proper function, claims of unfairness offending due process fall. The proposed Shreveport hearing fully comports with the Constitution and the law. Accordingly I join the judgment of the Court in reversing the District Court.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, whom MR. JUSTICE CLARK joins, concurring.
In joining the Court's opinion, as I do, I desire to add that in my view the principles established by In re Groban, 352 U.S. 330 , and Anonymous v. Baker, 360 U.S. 287 , are dispositive of the issues herein in the Commission's favor.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs, dissenting.
With great deference to my Brethren I dissent from a reversal of these judgments.
The cause which the majority opinion serves is, on the surface, one which a person dedicated to constitutional [363 U.S. 420, 494] principles could not question. At the bottom of this controversy is the right to vote protected by the Fifteenth Amendment. That Amendment withholds power from either the States or the United States to deny or abridge the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." This right stands beyond the reach of government. Only voting qualifications that conform to the standards proscribed by the Fifteenth Amendment may be prescribed. See Lassiter v. Northampton Election Board, 360 U.S. 45 . As stated in Terry v. Adams, 345 U.S. 461, 468 , "The Amendment, the congressional enactment and the cases make explicit the rule against racial discrimination in the conduct of elections." By democratic values this right is fundamental, for the very existence of government dedicated to the concept "of the people, by the people, for the people," to use Lincoln's words, depends on the franchise.
Yet important as these civil rights are, it will not do to sacrifice other civil rights in order to protect them. We live and work under a Constitution. The temptation of many men of goodwill is to cut corners, take short cuts, and reach the desired end regardless of the means. Worthy as I think the ends are which the Civil Rights Commission advances in these cases, I think the particular means used are unconstitutional.
The Commission, created by Congress, is a part of "the executive branch" of the Government, 71 Stat. 634, 42 U.S.C. 1975 (a), whose members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. 1975 (a). It is given broad powers of investigation with the view of making a report with "findings and recommendations" to the Congress. 1975c. It is empowered, among other things, to
The investigation and hearing by the Commission are therefore necessarily aimed at determining if this criminal law has been violated. The serious and incriminating nature of the charge and the disclosure of facts concerning it are recognized by the Congress, for the Act requires certain protective procedures to be adopted where defamatory, degrading, or incriminating evidence may be adduced.
I assume that no court would be justified in enjoining a Congressional Committee composed of Senators or Congressmen that engaged in this kind of conduct. This is not that kind of a committee. Moreover, even if it were and if private rights were infringed by reason of the Committee's violations of the Constitution, there are circumstances when redress can be had in the courts. Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168 . Cf. Greenfield v. Russel, 292 Ill. 392, 127 N. E. 102; Opinion of the Justices, 96 N. H. 530, 73 A. 2d 433. The judiciary also becomes implicated when the Congress asks the courts to back up what its Committees have done; or when a victim of an investigation asks relief from punishment imposed on him. Then the procedural safeguards of the Bill of Rights come into full play. See Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178 .
The Civil Rights Commission, however, is not a Congressional Committee of Senators or Congressmen; nor is it an arm of Congress. It is an arm of the Executive. There is, in my view, only one way the Chief Executive may move against a person accused of a crime and deny him the right of confrontation and cross-examination and that is by the grand jury.
The grand jury is the accusatory body in federal law as provided by the Fifth Amendment. The essence of the institution of the grand jury was stated by 1 Stephen, History of Criminal Law of England, 252: "The body of the country are the accusers." Thomas Erskine stated the matter accurately and eloquently in Jones v. Shipley, 21 How. St. Tr. 847, 977.
This Commission has no such guarantee of fairness. Its members are not drawn from the neighborhood. The [363 U.S. 420, 499] members cannot be as independent as grand juries because they meet not for one occasion only; they do a continuing job for the executive and, if history is a guide, tend to acquire a vested interest in that role.
The grand jury, adopted as a safeguard against "hasty, malicious, and oppressive" action by the Federal Government, Ex parte Bain, 121 U.S. 1, 12 , stands as an important safeguard to the citizen against open and public accusations of crime. Today the grand jury may act on its own volition, though originally specific charges by private prosecutors were the basis of its action. Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 59 -60. It has broad investigational powers to look into what may be offensive against federal criminal law. United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503, 510 . An indictment returned by a grand jury may not be challenged because it rests wholly on hearsay. Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 361 -362. An accused is not entitled to a hearing before a grand jury, nor to present evidence, nor to be represented by counsel; and a grand jury may act secretly - a procedure normally abhorrent to due process. In this country as in England of old, the grand jury is convened as a body of laymen, free from technical rules, acting in secret, pledged to indict no one because of prejudice and to free no one because of special favor. Costello v. United States, supra, at 362.
Grand juries have their defects. They do not always return a true bill, for while the prejudices of the community may radiate through them, they also have the saving quality of being familiar with the people involved. They are the only accusatory body in the Federal Government that is recognized by the Constitution. I would allow no other engine of government, either executive or legislative, to take their place - at least when the right of confrontation and cross-examination are denied the accused as is done in these cases. [363 U.S. 420, 500]
The might and power of the Federal Government have no equal. When its guns are leveled at a citizen on charges that he committed a federal crime, it is for me no answer to say that the only purpose is to report his activities to the President and Congress, not to turn him over to the District Attorney for prosecution. Our Constitution was drawn on the theory that there are certain things government may not do to the citizen and that there are other things that may be done only in a specific manner. The relationship of the Federal Government to a man charged with crime is carefully defined. Its power may be marshalled against him, but only in a defined way. When we allow this substitute method, we make an innovation that does not comport with that due process which the Fifth Amendment requires of the Federal Government. When the Federal Government prepares to inquire into charges that a person has violated federal law, the Fifth Amendment tells us how it can proceed.
The Civil Rights Commission, it is true, returns no indictment. Yet in a real sense the hearings on charges that a registrar has committed a federal offense are a trial. Moreover, these hearings before the Commission may be televised or broadcast on the radio. 3 In our day we have seen Congressional Committees probing into alleged criminal conduct of witnesses appearing on the television screen. This is in reality a trial in which the [363 U.S. 420, 501] whole Nation sits as a jury. Their verdict does not send men to prison. But it often condemns men or produces evidence to convict and even saturates the Nation with prejudice against an accused so that a fair trial may be impossible. As stated in 37 A. B. A. J. 392 (1951), "If several million television viewers see and hear a politician, a businessman or a movie actor subjected to searching interrogation, without ever having an opportunity to cross-examine his accusers or offer evidence in his own support, that man will stand convicted, or at least seriously compromised, in the public mind, whatever the later formal findings may be." The use of this procedure puts in jeopardy our traditional concept of the way men should be tried and replaces it with "a new concept of guilt based on inquisitorial devices." Note, 26 Temp. L. Q. 70, 73.
Yet whether the hearing is televised or not it will have all the evils of a legislative trial. "The legislative trial," wrote Alan Barth in Government by Investigation (1955) p. 81, "is a device for condemning men without the formalities of due process." And he went on to say:
The right to know the claims asserted against one and to contest them - to be heard - to conduct a cross-examination - these are all implicit in our concept of "a full and fair hearing" before any administrative agency, as the Court in Morgan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1, 18 , emphasized. We spoke there in the context of civil litigation where property was at stake. Here the need for all the protective devices of a fair hearing is greater. For one's job and perhaps his liberty are hinged on these hearings.
We spoke in the tradition of the Morgan case only recently in Greene v. McElroy, 360 U.S. 474, 496 -497.
Respondents ask no more than the right to know the charges, to be confronted with the accuser, and to cross-examine him. Absent these rights, they ask for an injunction. In the Greene case we said these rights were available "where governmental action seriously injures an individual." 360 U.S., at 496 . Injury is plain and obvious here - injury of a nature far more serious than merely losing one's job, as was the situation in the Greene case. If the hearings are to be without the safeguards which due process requires of all trials - civil and criminal - there is only one way I know by which the Federal Government may proceed and that is by grand jury. If these trials before the Commission are to be held on [363 U.S. 420, 504] charges that these respondents are criminals, the least we can do is to allow them to know what they are being tried for, and to confront their accusers and to cross-examine them. 4 This protection would be extended to them in any preliminary hearing, even in one before a United States Commissioner. 5 Confrontation and cross-examination are so basic to our concept of due process (Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331, 351 -352 (concurring opinion)) that no proceeding by an administrative agency is a fair one that denies these rights.
References are made to federal statutes governing numerous administrative agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission; and the inference is that what is done in this case can be done there. This comes as a surprise to one who for some years was engaged in those administrative investigations. No effort was ever made, so far as I am aware, to compel a person, charged with violating a federal law, to run the gantlet of a hearing over his objection. [363 U.S. 420, 505] No objection based either on the ground now advanced nor on the Fifth Amendment was, so far as I know, ever overruled. Investigations were made; and they were searching. Such evidence of law violations as was obtained was turned over to the Department of Justice. But never before, I believe, has a federal executive agency attempted, over the objections of an accused, to force him through a hearing to determine whether he has violated a federal law. If it did, the action was lawless and courts should have granted relief.
What we do today is to allow under the head of due process a fragmentation of proceedings against accused people that seems to me to be foreign to our system. No indictment is returned, no commitment to jail is made, no formal criminal charges are made. Hence the procedure is condoned as violating no constitutional guarantee. Yet what is done is another short cut used more and more these days to "try" men in ways not envisaged by the Constitution. The result is as damaging as summoning before committees men who it is known will invoke the Fifth Amendment and pillorying them for asserting their constitutional rights. This case - like the others - is a device to expose people as suspects or criminals. The concept of due process which permits the invention and use of prosecutorial devices not included in the Constitution makes due process reflect the subjective or even whimsical notions of a majority of this Court as from time to time constituted. Due process under the prevailing doctrine is what the judges say it is; and it differs from judge to judge, from court to court. This notion of due process makes it a tool of the activists who respond to their own visceral reactions in deciding what is fair, decent, or reasonable. This elastic concept of due process is described in the concurring opinion as follows:
Illustrative are the First Amendment protection given to the activities of a classroom teacher by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 255 , 261-263 (concurring opinion), but denied to the leader of an organization holding discussion groups at a summer camp in Uphaus v. Wyman, 360 U.S. 72 ; the decisions that due process was violated by the use of evidence obtained by the forceful use of a stomach pump in Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 , but not when evidence was used which was obtained by taking the blood of an unconscious prisoner. Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U.S. 432 .
It is said in defense of this chameleon-like due process that it is not "an exercise of whim or will," that it is "founded on something much deeper and more justifiable than personal preference. As far as it lies within human limitations, it must be an impersonal judgment. It must rest on fundamental presuppositions rooted in history to which widespread acceptance may fairly be attributed." Sweezy v. New Hampshire, supra, at 267 (concurring opinion). Yet one who tries to rationalize the cases on cold logic or reason fails. The answer turns on the personal predilections of the judge; and the louder the denial the more evident it is that emotion rather than reason dictates the answer. This is a serious price to pay for adopting a free-wheeling concept of due process, rather than confining it to the procedures and devices enumerated [363 U.S. 420, 507] in the Constitution itself. As said in Adamson v. California, 332 U.S. 46, 68 , 89 (dissenting opinion):
I think due process is described in the Constitution and limited and circumscribed by it. The Constitution is explicit as respects the permissible accusatory process that the Executive can employ against the citizen. Men of goodwill, not evil ones only, invent, under feelings of urgency, new and different procedures that have an awful effect on the citizen. The new accusatory procedure survives if a transient majority of the Court are persuaded that the device is fair or decent. My view of the Constitution confines judges - as well as the lawmakers and the Executive - to the procedures expressed in the Constitution. We look to the Constitution - not to the personal predilections of the judges - to see what is permissible. Since summoning an accused by the Government to explain or justify his conduct, that is charged as a crime, may be done only in one way, I would require a constitutional amendment before it can be done in a different way. [363 U.S. 420, 508]
The alternate path which we take today leads to trial of separate essential parts of criminal prosecutions by commissions, by executive agencies, by legislative committees. Farming out pieces of trials to investigative agencies is fragmentizing the kind of trial the Constitution authorizes. It prejudices the ultimate trial itself; and it puts in the hands of officials the awesome power which the Framers entrusted only to judges, grand jurors and petit jurors drawn from the community where the accused lives. It leads to government by inquisition.
The Civil Rights Commission can hold all the hearings it desires; it can adduce testimony from as many people as it likes; it can search the records and archives for such information it needs to make an informed report to Congress. See United States v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632 ; Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186 . But when it summons a person, accused under affidavit of having violated the federal election law, to see if the charge is true, it acts in lieu either of a grand jury or of a committing magistrate. The sifting of criminal charges against people is for the grand jury or for judges or magistrates and for them alone under our Constitution. In my view no other accusatory body can be used that withholds the rights of confrontation and cross-examination from those accused of federal crimes.
I would affirm these judgments.
[ Footnote 1 ] Civil suits for damages are also authorized. See 42 U.S.C. 1983; Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268 .
[ Footnote 2 ] The section reads in relevant part as follows:
[ Footnote 3 ] The Rules of the Commission by Subdivision (k) provide:
[ Footnote 4 ] Cf. Frankfurter, Hands Off the Investigations, New Republic, May 21, 1924, p. 329, at 331: "It must be remembered that our rules of evidence are but tools for ascertaining the truth, and that these tools vary with the nature of the issues and the nature of the tribunal seeking facts. Specifically, the system of rules of evidence used in trials before juries `are mainly aimed at guarding the jury from the over-weening effect of certain kinds of evidence.' That system, as pointed out by Wigmore, `is not applicable by historical precedent, or by sound practical policy' to `inquiries of fact determinable by administrative tribunals.' Still less is it applicable to inquiries by congressional committees. Of course the essential decencies must be observed, namely opportunity for cross-examination must be afforded to those who are investigated or to those representing issues under investigation."
[ Footnote 5 ] Rule 5 (b), Rules of Criminal Procedure, provides that the defendant shall be informed of the complaint against him and of his right to retain counsel. Rule 5 (c) expressly states, "The defendant may cross-examine witnesses against him and may introduce evidence in his own behalf." [363 U.S. 420, 509]
A free source of state and federal court opinions, state laws, and the United States Code. For more information about the legal concepts addressed by these cases and statutes visit FindLaw's Learn About the Law.
Citation: 363 U.S. 420
Docket No: No. 549
Decided: June 20, 1960
Court: United States Supreme Court
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)
FindLaw for Legal Professionals
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)