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BROWN V. UNITED STATES, 356 U. S. 148 (1958)

U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. United States, 356 U.S. 148 (1958)

Brown v. United States

No. 43

Argued April 4, 1957

Restored to the calendar for reargument June 10, 1957

Reargued October 22, 1957

Decided March 31, 1958

356 U.S. 148


In the Government's civil suit in a Federal District Court for petitioner's denaturalization on the ground that she had fraudulently procured citizenship by swearing falsely that she was not, and had not been, a member of or affiliated with the Communist Party, she voluntarily took the stand and testified at length in her own defense. Thereafter, during cross-examination, she refused, on grounds of self-incrimination, to answer questions which were relevant to her testimony on direct examination. The District Court ruled that she had waived her privilege by testifying in her own defense and ordered her to answer, but she persisted in her refusal to do so. For this, she was summarily adjudged guilty of criminal contempt and sentenced to imprisonment.

Held: the conviction is sustained. Pp. 356 U. S. 149-157.

(a) There can be no doubt that stubborn disobedience of the duty to answer relevant inquiries in a judicial proceeding brings into force the power of the federal courts to punish for contempt. Ex parte Hudgings, 249 U. S. 378, and In re Michael, 326 U. S. 224, distinguished. Pp. 356 U. S. 153-154.

(b) By taking the stand and testifying in her own behalf, petitioner waived the right to invoke on cross-examination her privilege against self-incrimination regarding matters made relevant by her direct examination. Pp. 356 U. S. 154-156.

(c) The record does not fairly support petitioner's claim that the District Court found a waiver simply in the act of taking the stand and misled her as to the actual legal question involved. Pp. 356 U. S. 156-157.

234 F.2d 140, affirmed.

Page 356 U. S. 149

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