UNITED STATES V. BRYAN, 339 U. S. 323 (1950)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Bryan, 339 U.S. 323 (1950)

United States v. Bryan

No. 99

Argued December 15, 1949

Decided May 8, 1950

339 U.S. 323


Respondent was the executive secretary, and had custody of the records, of an association which was under investigation by the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives. The Committee issued and served upon respondent a subpoena directing her to produce before the Committee at a stated time, specified records of the association. Respondent appeared before the Committee, but refused to produce the records on the ground that the Committee was without constitutional right to demand them. Respondent was indicted, tried, and convicted for willful default in violation of R.S. § 102, 2 U.S.C. § 192.


1. The presence of a quorum of the Committee at the time of the return to the subpoena was not an essential element of the offense (Christoffel v. United States, 338 U. S. 84, distinguished), and, when the Government introduced evidence that respondent had been validly served with a lawful subpoena directing her to produce records within her custody and control and that, on the return day, she intentionally failed to comply, it made out a prima facie case of willful default. Pp. 339 U. S. 327-330.

2. The defense of lack of a quorum was not available to respondent under the circumstances of this case. Pp. 339 U. S. 330-335.

(a) When a witness seeks to excuse a default on grounds of inability to comply with a subpoena, the defense must fail in the absence of a showing of even a modicum of good faith in responding to the subpoena. P. 339 U. S. 332.

(b) Respondent having made no objection to the lack of a quorum on her appearance before the Committee, having relied on other grounds for noncompliance with the subpoena, and having raised the quorum question for the first time on her trial two years later, she cannot rely upon the defense of lack of a quorum on her trial for willful default. Pp. 339 U. S. 332-335.

3. The trial court did not err in permitting the Government to read to the jury the testimony that respondent had given before the Committee when called upon to produce the records. Pp. 339 U. S. 335-343.

Page 339 U. S. 324

(a) R.S. § 859, now 18 U.S.C. § 3486, which provides that

"No testimony given by a witness before . . . any committee of either House . . . shall be used as evidence in an criminal proceeding against him in any court, except in a prosecution for perjury committed in giving such testimony,"

did not bar the use at respondent's trial for willful default under R.S. § 102 of the testimony given by her before the Committee. Pp. 339 U. S. 337-340.

(b) In R.S. § 859, the term "any criminal proceeding" does not apply to a prosecution for willful default under R.S. § 102. Pp. 339 U. S. 338, 339 U. S. 342-343.

(c) Congress intended the immunity provided by R.S. § 859 to apply only to past criminal acts concerning which a witness my be called to testify. Pp. 339 U. S. 339-343.

84 U.S.App.D.C. 394, 174 F.2d 525, reversed.

Respondent was convicted of a violation of R.S. § 102, for failure to produce records in compliance with a subpoena of the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives. 72 F.Supp. 58. The Court of Appeals reversed. 84 U.S.App.D.C. 394, 174 F.2d 525. This Court granted certiorari. 338 U.S. 846. Reversed, p. 339 U. S. 343.

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