1951 January 16

Hawaii Judge Acquits Three of Contempt of Congress for Claiming the Fifth Amendment Before HUAC


A federal judge in Hawaii on this day acquitted three people charged with Contempt of Congress for invoking the Fifth Amendment in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Judge Delbert Metzger cited his own opinion in an earlier case, in which he rejected the government’s argument that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to legislative investigations. He dismissed that as an “interesting argument.” “The Constitution,” he added in that case, “stands like a Rock of Gibraltar with the same force and effect whether the questioning is before a grand jury or anybody.”

The three defendants in today’s case included the chair of the Communist Party of Hawaii and the former treasurer of the Hawaii Civil Liberties Committee.

Read Dean Erwin Griswold’s book: Erwin N. Griswold, The 5th Amendment Today: Three Speeches (1955)

Learn more about the ACLU in the Cold War and other Times of National Crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-rooting-out-subversives-paranoia-and-patriotism-mccarthy-era

Learn more: Leonard Levy, Origins of the Fifth Amendment: The Right Against Self-incrimination (1968)

Learn more about HUAChttp://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/huac

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