HALE V. HENKEL, 201 U. S. 43 (1906)

Subscribe to Cases that cite 201 U. S. 43


U.S. Supreme Court

Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43 (1906)

Hale v. Henkel

No. 340

Argued January 4, 5, 1906

Decided March 12, 1906

201 U.S. 43


Under the practice in this country, the examination of witnesses by a Federal grand jury need not be preceded by a presentment or formal indictment, but the grand jury may proceed, either upon their own knowledge or upon examination of witnesses, to inquire whether a crime cognizable by the court has been committed, and, if so, they may indict upon such evidence. In summoning witnesses, it is sufficient to apprise them of the names of the parties with respect to whom they will be called to testify, without indicating the nature of the charge against them or laying a basis by a formal indictment.

The examination of a witness before a grand jury is a "proceeding" within the meaning of the proviso to the general appropriation act of 1903 that no person shall be prosecuted on account of anything which he may testify in any proceeding under the Antitrust Law. The word should receive as wide a construction as is necessary to protect the witness in his disclosures.

The interdiction of the Fifth Amendment operates only where a witness is asked to incriminate himself, and does not apply if the criminality is taken away. A witness is not excused from testifying before a grand jury under a statute which provides for immunity, because he may not be able, if subsequently indicted, to procure the evidence necessary to maintain his plea. The law takes no account of the practical difficulty which a party may have in procuring his testimony.

A witness cannot refuse to testify before a Federal grand jury in face of a Federal statute granting immunity from prosecution as to matters sworn to, because the immunity does not extend to prosecutions in a State court. In granting immunity, the only danger to be guarded against is one within the same jurisdiction and under the same sovereignty.

The benefits of the Fifth Amendment are exclusively for a witness compelled to testify against himself in a criminal case, and he cannot set them up on behalf of any other person or individual, or of a corporation of which he is an officer or employe.

Page 201 U. S. 44

A witness who cannot avail himself of the Fifth Amendment as to oral testimony, because of a statute granting him immunity from prosecution, cannot set it up as against the production of books and papers, as the same statute would equally grant him immunity in respect to matters proved thereby.

The search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment was not intended to interfere with the power of courts to compel the production upon a trial of documentary evidence through a subpoena duces tecum.

While an individual may lawfully refuse to answer incriminating questions unless protected by an immunity statute, a corporation is a creature of the State, and there is a reserved right in the legislature to investigate its contracts and find out whether it has exceeded its powers.

There is a clear distinction between an individual and a corporation, and the latter, being a creature of the State, has not the constitutional right to refuse to submit its books and papers for an examination at the suit of the State; and an officer of a corporation which is charged with criminal violation of a statute cannot plead the criminality of the corporation as a refusal to produce its books.

Franchises of a corporation chartered by a State are, so far as they involve questions of interstate commerce, exercised in subordination to the power of Congress to regulate such commerce; and while Congress may not have general visitatorial power over State corporations, its powers in vindication of its own laws are the same as if the corporation had been created by an act of Congress.

A corporation is but an association of individuals with a distinct name and legal entity, and, in organizing itself as a collective body, it waives no appropriate constitutional immunities, and, although it cannot refuse to produce its books and papers, it is entitled to immunity under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures, and, where an examination of its books is not authorized by an act of Congress, a subpoena duces tecum requiring the production of practically all of its books and papers is as indefensible as a search warrant would be if couched in similar terms.

Although the subpoena duces tecum may be too broad in its requisition, where the witness has refused to answer any question, or to produce any books or papers, this objection would not go to the validity of the order committing him for contempt.

This was an appeal from a final order of the Circuit Court made June 18, 1905, dismissing a writ of habeas corpus and remanding the petitioner Hale to the custody of the marshal.

The proceeding originated in a subpoena duces tecum, issued April 28, 1905, commanding Hale to appear before the grand jury at a time and place named, to

"testify and give evidence

Page 201 U. S. 45

in a certain action now pending . . . in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, between the United States of America and the American Tobacco Company and MacAndrews & Forbes Company, on the part of the United States, and that you bring with you and produce at the time and place aforesaid:"

1. All understandings, agreements, arrangements, or contracts, whether evidenced by correspondence, memoranda, formal agreements, or other writings, between MacAndrews & Forbes Company and six other firms and corporations named, from the date of the organization of the said MacAndrews & Forbes Company.

2. All correspondence by letter or telegram between MacAndrews & Forbes Company and six other firms and corporations.

3. All reports made or accounts rendered by these six companies or corporations to the principal company.

4. Any agreements or contracts, or arrangements, however evidenced, between MacAndrews & Forbes Company and the Amsterdam Supply Company or the American Tobacco Company or the Continental Company or the Consolidated Tobacco Company.

5. All letters received by the MacAndrews & Forbes Company since the date of its organization from thirteen other companies named, located in different parts of the United States, and also copies of all correspondence with such companies.

Petitioner appeared before the grand jury in obedience to the subpoena, and, before being sworn, asked to be advised of the nature of the investigation in which he had been summoned; whether under any statute of the United States, and the specific charge, if any had been made, in order that he might learn whether or not the grand jury had any lawful right to make the inquiry, and also that he be furnished with a copy of the complaint, information, or proposed indictment upon which they were acting; that he had been informed that there was no action pending in the circuit court, as stated in the subpoena, and that the grand jury was investigating no specific charge against

Page 201 U. S. 46

anyone, and he therefore declined to answer: first, because there was no legal warrant for his examination, and, second, because his answers might tend to incriminate him.

After stating his name, residence, and the fact that he was secretary and treasurer of the MacAndrews & Forbes Company, he declined to answer all other questions in regard to the business of the company, its officers, the location of its office, or its agreement or arrangements with other companies. He was thereupon advised by the assistant district attorney that this was a proceeding under the Sherman act to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraint and monopolies; that, under the act of 1903, amendatory thereof, no person could be prosecuted or subjected to any penalty or forfeiture on account of any matter or thing concerning which he might testify or produce documentary evidence in any prosecution under said act, and that he thereby offered and assured appellant immunity from punishment. The witness still persisted in his refusal to answer all questions. He also declined to produce the papers and documents called for in the subpoena:

First. Because it would have been a physical impossibility to have gotten them together within the time allowed.

Second. Because he was advised by counsel that he was under no legal obligations to produce anything called for by the subpoena.

Third. Because they might tend to incriminate him.

Whereupon the grand jury reported the matter to the court, and made a presentment that Hale was in contempt, and that the proper proceedings should be taken. Thereupon all the parties appeared before the circuit judge, who directed the witness to answer the questions and produce the papers. Appellant still persisting in his refusal, the circuit judge held him to be in contempt, and committed him to the custody of the marshal until he should answer the questions and produce the papers. A writ of habeas corpus was thereupon sued out, and a hearing had before another judge of the same court, who discharged the writ and remanded the petitioner.

Page 201 U. S. 58

ChanRobles Legal Resources:

ChanRobles On-Line Bar Review

ChanRobles Internet Bar Review :

ChanRobles MCLE On-line

ChanRobles Lawnet Inc. - ChanRobles MCLE On-line :