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Watkins v United States 1957 354 US 178Facts Watkins was subpoenaed to testify in a congressional hearing to investigate alleged wrong doings of the Attorney General and the department of justice Throughout the questioning the congressional committee asked questions that could result in Watkins incriminating himself because of his political beliefs Due to this Watkins evoked his 5th Amendment right not to answer the question By doing so the congressional committee indicted him and the Court of appeals upheld Congresss claimQuestion Does Article one of the Constitution bestow to congress the power to interrogate citizens out of a court of law And can the 5th amendment be used in a congressional committee hearingDecision The decision was to reverse the judgement of the Court of Appeals and to dismiss the indictmentReason Congress must be able to conduct investigations especially into surveys of defects in our social economic or political system claimed Chief justice Warren in order to allow congress to relive those issues With that in mind Congress has no authority to expose private affairs of persons without it being pertinent to the legislation in question The Bill of Rights was applied to the Constitution to ensure safety of individual rights from and overbearing Congress Congress can not ask vague questions to accidentally fall onto the answers they want specific questions must be used to retrieve the needed informationBarenblatt v United States 1959 360 US 109Facts Lloyd Barenblatt was a college professor called to testify before the congressional subcommittee House of Un-American Activities When questioning began Barenblatt refused to answer regarding any past involvement with the Communist Party firmly believing that past political beliefs are protected under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution The Supreme Court vacated his conviction for contempt of Congress and left it open for more consideration His conviction was upheld by the Court of AppealsQuestions Does the 1st Amendment encompass political ideals And if not does Congress have the right to ask
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