legislative investigative powers


legislative investigative powers

      powers of a lawmaking body to conduct investigations. In most countries this power is exercised primarily to provide a check on the executive branch of government. The U.S. Congress, however, has exercised broad investigative powers, beginning in 1792 with an investigation of a military disaster.

      In the 1820s Congressional committees regularly began to summon witnesses to testify about proposed legislation. In 1857 it provided criminal penalties for witnesses who refuse to answer questions, although in Kilbourn v. Thompson (1881), the Supreme Court held that Congress may not inquire “into the private affairs of the citizen.” Nearly four decades later, in Sinclair v. United States (1929), the court, less hostile to congressional inquiries, ruled that a witness could not refuse to answer questions on the grounds that questions related to his private affairs.

      In the 1950s, investigations conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee into alleged Communist activities prompted claims that congressional investigations were violating First Amendment rights by “engaging in exposure for exposure's sake.” Because these cases invariably included allegations of Fifth Amendment violations, the court disposed of the cases on Fifth Amendment grounds, thus avoiding the First Amendment issue. Several contempt-of-Congress convictions were sustained, however, before the judicial climate changed in the 1960s.

      In Gibson v. Florida Legislative Commission (1963) the Supreme Court held that a state legislative investigation of the Miami National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was a violation of First Amendment rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Arthur Goldberg stated that “groups which themselves are neither engaged in subversive or other illegal or improper activities . . . are to be protected in their rights of free and private association.” Later, in DeGregory v. New Hampshire Attorney General (1966), the court held that the First Amendment prevents the government from “using the power to investigate enforced by the contempt power,” in the absence of any showing of “overriding and compelling state interest that would warrant intrusion into the realm of political and associational privacy protected by the First Amendment.”

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation — Infobox Government agency agency name = Australian Security Intelligence Organisation logo width = 350px headquarters = Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia formed = 16 March 1949 jurisdiction = Commonwealth of Australia employees =… …   Wikipedia

  • checks and balances — limits imposed on all branches of a government by vesting in each branch the right to amend or void those acts of another that fall within its purview. [1780 90] * * * Principle of government under which separate branches are empowered to prevent …   Universalium

  • Ombudsman — An ombudsman (conventional English plural: ombudsmen) is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent… …   Wikipedia

  • USA PATRIOT Act, Title II — The USA PATRIOT Act was passed by the United States Congress in 2001 as a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. It has ten titles, each containing numerous sections. Title II: Enhanced Surveillance Procedures granted increased powers of… …   Wikipedia

  • Organised crime in Australia — refers to the activities of various groups of crime families and/or organised crime syndicates. Organised crime is a phenomenon that has emerged in different cultures and countries around the world; it is ubiquitous, internationalised and not… …   Wikipedia

  • Public Company Accounting Oversight Board — The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (or PCAOB) is a private sector, non profit corporation created by the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, a 2002 United States federal law, to oversee the auditors of public companies. Its stated purpose is to… …   Wikipedia

  • United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management — The United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management (also known as the McClellan Committee) was a select committee created by the United States Senate on January 30, 1957,[1] and dissolved on March 31,… …   Wikipedia

  • Human rights in Hong Kong — occasionally comes under the spotlight by the international community because of its world city status. Pan democrats claims that this can be used as a yardstick to judge whether the People s Republic of China has kept its end of the bargain of… …   Wikipedia

  • Montana State Government — As established and defined by the Montana Constitution, the government of the State of Montana is composed of three branches, the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative. The powers of initiative and referendum are reserved for the citizens of… …   Wikipedia

  • Scorpions (South Africa) — Official DSO Seal For the Iraqi Intelligence Service branch, see Directorate 14. The Directorate of Special Operations (also, DSO or Scorpions) was a multidisciplinary agency that investigated and prosecuted organised crime and corruption. It was …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.