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F32 Watkins vs US

F32 Watkins vs US

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Published by Geelyn Catindig

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Published by: Geelyn Catindig on Sep 10, 2013
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F32VGT_07/2013
Watkins Vs. US
354 U.S. 178, 98 U.S.App.D.C.190, 233 F.2d 681
FACTS:
On April 29, 1954, petitioner appeared as a witness in compliance with a subpoena issued by a Subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives. The Committee on Un-AmericanActivities, as a whole or by subcommittee of the House of Representatives, is authorized to make from time totime investigations of (1) the extent, character, and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the UnitedStates, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigatedfrom foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government asguaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in anynecessary remedial legislation.
The petition’s appearance before the Committee was brought by the mentioning
of his name by two witnesses who testified before the committee at prior hearings. Spencer, who admittedhaving been a Communist form 1943-1946 declared that he had been recruited into the Party (CommunistParty) with the endorsement and prior approval of the petitioner. Spencer also mentioned that the petitionerhad attended meetings at which only card-carrying Communists were admitted. Subsequently, Rumseyappeared to the committee and testified that he had been recruited into the Party by the petitioner. Rumseyadmitted further that he paid dues to, and later collected dues from the petitioner. Petitioner answered theseallegations freely and without reservation. He denied all the allegations made by the two witnesses and madeclear to the committee that for a period of time from approximately 1942 to 1947, he cooperated with theCommunist Party and participated in Communist activities to such a degree that some persons may honestlybelieve that he was a member of the party. However, since he freely cooperated with the Communist Party, hehad no motive for making the distinction between cooperation and membership except the simple fact that it isthe truth. He never carried a Communist Party card. He never accepted discipline, and, indeed, on severaloccasions, he opposed their position.Petitioner certainly was not attempting to conceal or withhold from the Committee his own past politicalassociations, predilections, and preferences. Furthermore, petitioner told the Committee that he was entirelywilling to identify for the Committee, and answer any questions it might have concerning those persons whom Iknew to be members of the Communist Party, provided that, to his best knowledge and belief, they still were
members of the Party. However, upon the reading of the committee’s counsel of the list of persons identified by
Rumsey as communists, of those whom he did know, he refused to tell whether he knew them to have beenmembers of the Communist Party. He explained to the Subcommittee why he took such a position:
“I am not going to plead the fifth amendment, but I refuse to answer certain questions that I believe are outside
the proper scope of your committee's activities. I will answer any questions which this committee puts to meabout myself. I will also answer questions about those persons whom I knew to be members of the CommunistParty and whom I believe still are. I will not, however, answer any questions with respect to others with whom Iassociated in the past. I do not believe that any law in this country requires me to testify about persons whomay in the past have been Communist Party members or otherwise engaged in Communist Party activity butwho, to my best knowledge and belief, have long since removed themselves from the Communist movement.I do not believe that such questions are relevant to the work of this committee, nor do I believe that thiscommittee has the right to undertake the public exposure of persons because of their past activities. I may be

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