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Barenblatt, Uphaus, and the Court in Retreat

Barenblatt, Uphaus, and the Court in Retreat

(October Terms 1958 and 1959)

(p.127) 9 Barenblatt, Uphaus, and the Court in Retreat
The Supreme Court and McCarthy-Era Repression
Robert M. Lichtman
University of Illinois Press

This chapter discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions during its October 1958 and 1959 terms. The most important decisions were Barenblatt v. United States and Uphaus v. Wyman, in which the Court decided in the government’s favor a constitutional issue it had nibbled at, but avoided deciding, for years: whether legislative committees may, consistent with the First Amendment, compel witnesses to disclose “Communist” associations. Barenblatt was another House Un-American Activities Committee contempt-of-Congress case, and, as in earlier cases, nonconstitutional issues were also presented. But this time the Court chose to decide on constitutional grounds. Uphaus seemed indistinguishable from Sweezy (it involved a New Hampshire adult-camp director’s refusal to provide information to Louis Wyman’s one-man committee). But Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone, who in Sweezy joined Felix Frankfurter in a concurring opinion that sustained the witness’ refusal to answer on First Amendment grounds, wrote for the Court in Uphaus reaching the opposite result.

Keywords:   Barenblatt v. United States, Uphaus v. Wyman, U.S. Supreme Court, McCarthy era, First Amendment, Harlan F. Stone, Felix Frankfurter

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