Dennis v. United States, 339 U.S. 162 (1950)

Petitioner, who is General Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States, was convicted in the District of Columbia of violating R. S. 102, 2 U.S.C. 192, by willfully failing to appear before the Committee on Un-American Activities of the House of Representatives in compliance with a subpoena duly served upon him. On voir dire examination, government employees on the jury panel were interrogated individually by petitioner's counsel as to whether the fact that petitioner was a Communist, the attitude of the Committee on Un-American Activities toward Communists, or the recently issued Executive Order 9835 providing standards for the discharge of government employees upon reasonable grounds for belief that they are disloyal to the Government, would prevent them from rendering a fair and impartial verdict. Seven government employees who gave negative answers to these questions and testified that they could render a fair and impartial verdict were permitted to serve on the jury. There was no proof of actual bias, and petitioner's challenged of these government employees for cause was denied. Held: In the circumstances of this case, petitioner was not denied the trial "by an impartial jury" guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.


Let there be no misunderstanding. To recognize the existence of a group whose views are feared and despised by the community at large does not even remotely imply any support of that group. To take appropriate measures in order to avert injustice even towards a member of a despised group is to enforce justice. It is not to play favorites. The boast of our criminal procedure is that it protects an accused, so far as legal procedure can, from a bias operating against such a group to which he belongs. This principle should be enforced whatever the tenets of the group - whether the old Locofocos or the Know-Nothings, the Ku Klux Klan or the Communists. This is not to coddle Communists but to respect our professions of equal justice to all. It was a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals. [339 U.S. 162, 184]

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