Sweezy v. New Hampshire

354 U.S. 234 (1957)

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Sweezy v. New Hampshire

United States Supreme Court
354 U.S. 234 (1957)

Facts

In 1951, the New Hampshire legislature passed a statute regulating subversive activities, organizations, and individuals. The statute deemed “subversive persons” as ineligible for employment with the state or public educational institutions. The state’s Attorney General was given the authority to investigate potential subversive persons, and in doing so, had the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents. If an individual refused to comply with a subpoena, the Attorney General could petition a trial court to hold the individual in contempt. Sweezy (defendant) had given lectures to students at the University of New Hampshire. The Attorney General subpoenaed Sweezy for questioning, but Sweezy declined to answer several questions on constitutional grounds, including those about his knowledge of the Progressive Party and the subject of his lectures at the University of New Hampshire. The Attorney General petitioned the trial court to intervene, which found the questions to be relevant to the Attorney General’s investigation. When Sweezy refused to answer questions before the trial court, the trial court held Sweezy in contempt, and Sweezy appealed. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found that Sweezy’s constitutional rights to lecture and associate with others had been infringed upon, but that this infringement was justified by the state’s interest in preventing a forcible overthrow of the government. Sweezy then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Warren, C.J.)

Concurrence (Frankfurter, J.)

Dissent (Clark, J.)

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