Wilkinson v. United States

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Wilkinson v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued November 17, 1960
Decided February 27, 1961
Full case nameFrank Wilkinson v. United States
Citations365 U.S. 399 (more)
81 S. Ct. 567; 5 L. Ed. 2d 633
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · Felix Frankfurter
William O. Douglas · Tom C. Clark
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Charles E. Whittaker · Potter Stewart
DissentBlack, joined by Warren & Douglas
DissentDouglas, joined by Warren & Black
DissentBrennan, joined by Douglas
Laws applied
2 U.S.C. § 192

Wilkinson v. United States, 365 U.S. 399 (1961), was a court case during the McCarthy Era in which the petitioner, Frank Wilkinson, an administrator with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, challenged his conviction under 2 U.S.C. § 192,[1] which makes it a misdemeanor to refuse to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry for any person summoned as a witness by Congress. The petitioner's conviction was sustained in a 5-4 ruling, upholding a prior ruling in Barenblatt v. United States.

The petitioner was indeed summoned to testify before a Subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating alleged Communist infiltration into basic industries and Communist Party propaganda activities. The petitioner refused to answer a question as to whether he was a member of the Communist Party, contending that the Subcommittee lacked legal authority to interrogate him and that its questioning violated his First Amendment rights. He was convicted of a misdemeanor violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192.[1] The Court also, on February 27, 1961, denied Braden v. United States, a companion case appealing a similar 2 U.S.C. § 192 conviction.

The underlying activities of the FBI and government agencies later resulted in a case, Wilkinson v. FBI, 633 F. Supp. 336 (C.D. Cal. 1986), in which it was revealed that the FBI believed the witness that provided the assertion of Wilkinson's association with the Communist Party was "unreliable and emotionally unstable."[2]


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