Watkins vs United States

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Watkins v. United States
354 U.S. 178 In the case of Watkins v. United States, John Thomas Watkins was trying to have his conviction of contempt of Congress overturned due to his belief that the subcommittee’s questions were outside the scope of their investigation. The House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities interviewed Watkins on suspicion that he was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Watkins was a labor union official for the United Auto Workers union. The subcommittee was given Watkins’s name by Walter Rumsey and Donald Spencer who believed that Watkins was a card-carrying member using the pseudonym of Sam Brown. Watkins made it clear that he was never a member of the communist party and that Spencer
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He believed in answering these questions he would violate the rights of these people. The opinion handed down from the Supreme Court on this matter by Chief Justice Warren was a six to one vote with majority as Justices Earl Warren, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, John M. Harlan II, and William J. Brennan, Jr. the only justice in dissent was Justice Tom C. Clark. The issue present in the case was if the subcommittee is unconstitutionally exercising powers they were not granted under the constitution such as invasive questions into people’s personal lives. Watkins argued that his conviction by the court of appeals violated his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment. The decision by the court overturned his conviction based on the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Chief Justice Warren stated that it is Congress’s right to investigate items that are intrinsic to the legislative process however broad this power is, it is not unlimited. This power of investigation is to oversee current laws and proposed statues, exposing defects in the political and socioeconomic systems and find a way to fix them. Under this power it is not to expose the private day-to-day life of an individual or their past. This investigation set out to punish the people investigated and propels the status of the investigators. It is the duty of a citizen to cooperate with Congress however the rights of the witnesses involved in the committee’s
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