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United States v. Yellin

February 16, 1961

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
EDWARD YELLIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Author: Knoch

Before SCHNACKENBERG, KNOCH and CASTLE, Circuit Judges.

KNOCH, Circuit Judge.

Defendant was indicted in five counts for the offense of contempt of Congress, in violation of Title 2 U.S.C.A. ยง 192,*fn1 in willfully refusing to answer questions pertinent to the subject then under inquiry*fn2 by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American activities. Each count alleged refusal to answer a single question. The fifth count was dismissed on motion of the government. Counts I to IV, inclusive, listed the following questions:

"I. Mr. Yellin, where did you reside prior to September 1957?

"II. Will you tell the committee, please, whether or not incidents came to your attention of the colonization of the steel unions in Gary by the Communist Party at any time prior to September 1957?

"III. Were you a member of the Communist Party on the 23d of June, 1949, which is the date of application filed in your name for employment in Gary?

"IV. Will you tell the committee whether or not in 1957 there were present in any of the steel unions at Gary, Indiana, persons who were known to you to have been colonizers of the Communist Party?"

Defendant waived jury trial. The District Court found him guilty as charged in Counts I to IV, inclusive, and imposed concurrent sentences of one year on each count, plus a fine of $250. Defendant took this appeal.

Defendant argues that he was subpoenaed to testify in February, 1958, a few months after the United States Supreme Court had decided Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 77 S. Ct. 1173, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1273 (June 1957), and that, relying on Watkins, he believed that he was not required to answer the questions put to him. Therefore, he contends that he cannot be said to have had the requisite criminal intent to support conviction. He further contends that:

"Rule XI of the House Rules, which defines the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Un-American activities, is so unclear on its face that it cannot support a criminal charge."

The pertinent portions of the Rule read:

"17. Committee on Un-American Activities. * * *

"(b) The Committee on Un-American Activities, as a whole or by subcommittee, is authorized to make from time to time investigations of (1) the extent, character, and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation.

"The Committee on Un-American Activities shall report to the House (or to the Clerk of the House if the House is not in session) the results of any such investigation, together with such recommendations as it deems advisable.

"For the purpose of any such investigation, the Committee on Un-American Activities, or any subcommittee thereof, is authorized to sit and act at such times and places within the United States, whether or not the House is sitting, has recessed, or has adjourned, to hold such hearings, to require the attendance of such witnesses and the production of such books, papers, and documents, and to take such testimony, as it deems necessary. Subpoenas may be issued under the signature of the chairman of the committee or any subcommittee, or by any member designated by any such chairman, and may be served by any person designated by any such chairman or member. * * *

"26. To assist the House in appraising the administration of the laws and in developing such amendments or related legislation as it may deem necessary, each standing committee of the House shall exercise continuous watchfulness of the execution by the administrative agencies concerned of any laws, the subject matter of which is within the jurisdiction of such committee; and, for that purpose, shall study all ...


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