DENNIS v. UNITED STATES

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
502
Petitioner 
Raymond Dennis et al.
Respondent 
United States
Advocates
(argued the cause for the petitioners)
(argued the cause for the United States)
Tags
Term:
Location: Congress
Facts of the Case 

Raymond Dennis and others were members of the Communist Party; they were also officers and members of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. They filed false affidavits between 1949 and 1955 to satisfy the stipulations of 9(h) of the National Labor Relations Act as amended by the Taft-Hartley Act, which required all union officers to submit non-Communist affidavits. The union officials retained their Communist Party affiliations, filed the affidavits, and enabled the union to use the services of the National Labor Relations Board. The union officers were indicted by the United States District Court for conspiracy to fraudulently obtain the services of the National Labor Relations Board.

Question 
  1. Does the indictment charge a conspiracy to defraud the United States Government consistent with 18 U.S.C. 371? 2. Is section 9(h) of the Taft- Hartley Act a bill of attainder in violation of Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution? 3. Did the trial court err in denying the defense's request for access to grand jury testimony of prosecution witnesses or in camera inspection of the testimony?
Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Dennis, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 371

Yes, not addressed, and yes. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that the indictment properly charged a conspiracy to defraud the United States Government under 18 U.S.C. 371. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Abe Fortas, argued that the conspiracy of filing the false affidavits was intentional and that the events of filing the affidavits and using the NLRB facilities together were a “concert of action” with the purpose of defrauding the Government. The Court refused to hear the question of the constitutionality of 9(h) as the union officers' attempt was to circumvent the law. The relevant standard, according to Fortas, is that the Court will not hear a constitutionality claim to supplant a "voluntary, deliberate, and calculated course of fraud and deceit," as conspiracy to defraud is not an appropriate way to challenge acts of government. The Court also held that the defense should have been allowed access to the grand jury minutes containing the prosecution witnesses' testimonies with an opportunity to question the witnesses regarding their statements. The majority opinion maintained that the union officers exceeded the particularized need standard that is used to evaluate access to grand jury testimony, and thus access should have been granted to the defense, especially as an evaluation is best made by a defense advocate and not a trial judge during in-camera inspection. Justices William O. Douglas and Hugo L. Black joined this part of the majority opinion but dissented from the remainder. The Court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.

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DENNIS v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 12 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965/1965_502>.
DENNIS v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965/1965_502 (last visited December 12, 2014).
"DENNIS v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 12, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1960-1969/1965/1965_502.