Treatment of Congressional Witnesses in Contempt

March 24, 1924
Entire Report

In view of the action of the special committee investigating the oil leases in citing to the Senate on March 24, 1924 the name of Harry F. Sinclair an being in contempt for refusal to testify and answer questions, after duly being summoned before the committee, the following data regarding procedure in such cases is believed to be informative:

Statutory Provisions

The Revised Statutes of the United States provide as follows:

Section 102. Every person who, having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers upon any matter under inquiry before either House, or any committee of either House of Congress, willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any questions pertinent to the question under inquiry, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not mope than $1000 nor less than $100, and imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.

Section 103. No witness is privileged to refuse to testify to any fact, or to produce any paper respecting which he shall be examined by either House of Congress, or by any committee of either House upon the ground that his testimony to such fact or his production of such paper may tend to disgrace him or otherwise render him infamous.

Section 104. Whenever a witness, summoned as mentioned in Section 102, fails to testify, and the facts are reported to either House, the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House, as the case may be, shall certify the fact, under the seal of the Senate or House, to the District Attorney for the District of Columbia, whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for their action.”

Use of Congressional Testimony

Of further importance in respect of employment in such proceedings as have been or may be brought in the courts of testimony adduced by the investigating committees, is the following section:

Section 859. No testimony given by a witness before either House or before any committee of either House of Congress shall be used as evidence in any criminal proceeding against him in any court except in a prosecution for perjury committed in giving such testimony. But an official paper or record produced by him is not within the said privilege.

Custody of Contemptuous Witnesses

Members of the Judiciary Committees and Congressional functionaries agree that there has been in the past much dispute regarding procedure in such and similar cases. There seems to be general agreement, however, that the Sergeant at Arms of the body in a

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Investigations and Discipline