The Civil Rights Commission issued subpoenaes duces tecum to certain voting registrars of the State of Louisiana commanding them to appear at a hearing in answer to charges that certain Negroes had been denied the right to vote because of their race, a violation of Federal law. The Commission refused to name the informants, or to reveal the exact charges filed, and denied the registrars the right to confront and cross-examine the informants. A suit was brought against the Commission to enjoin the proposed hearing on grounds that the procedures sought to be used denying these rights were beyond the Commission's authority and denied them the Constitutional safeguards of confrontation and cross-examination. The Federal District Court avoided the Constitutional question by declaring the procedures adopted by the Commission not authorized by Congress and void. On appeal the United States Supreme Court in a 7–2 decision reversed and held further that the denial of the right to confront and cross-examine the informants would not deny the petitioners due process of law. In view of the increasing popularity of investigations, danger of erosion of constitutional rights lies in restricting the right of confrontation and cross-examination to proceedings which act directly to deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property. The guide should be whether or not the necessary or probable result of the proceedings will be to injure those persons, whether directly or collaterally.
James F. Janke,
Due Process of Law—The Right to Confront and Cross-Examine Witnesses in Investigations,
40 Neb. L. Rev. 540
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol40/iss3/11