MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.
During the course of a grand jury investigation into alleged irregularities in the construction of the Mechanicsburg Naval Supply Depot, the District Court of the United States for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a subpoena duces tecum directed to "Local No. 542, International Union of Operating Engineers." This subpoena required the union to produce before the grand jury on January 11, 1943, copies of its constitution and by-laws and specifically enumerated union records showing its collections of work-permit fees, including the amounts paid therefor and the identity of the payors from January 1, 1942, to the date of the issuance of the subpoena, December 28, 1942.
The United States marshal served the subpoena on the president of the union. On January 11, 1943, respondent appeared before the grand jury, describing himself as "assistant supervisor" of the union. Although he was not shown to be the authorized custodian of the union's books, he had the demanded documents in his possession. He
He was immediately cited for contempt of court and during the hearing on the contempt repeated his refusal once again. He based his refusal on the opinion of his counsel that "great uncertainty exists today as to what may or may not constitute a violation of Section 276 (b), Title 40, of the United States Code."
The court below reversed the District Court's judgment by a divided vote. 137 F.2d 24. The majority held that the records of an unincorporated labor union were the property of all its members and that, if respondent were a
The only issue in this case relates to the nature and scope of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. We are not concerned here with a complete delineation of the legal status of unincorporated labor unions. We express no opinion as to the legality or desirability of incorporating such unions or as to the necessity of considering them as separate entities apart from their members for purposes other than the one posed by the narrow issue in this case. Nor do we question the obvious fact that business corporations, by virtue of their creation by the state and because of the nature and purpose of their activities, differ in many significant respects from unions, religious bodies, trade associations, social clubs and other types of organizations, and accordingly owe different obligations to the federal and state governments.
Respondent contends that an officer of an unincorporated labor union possesses a constitutional right to refuse to produce, in compliance with a subpoena duces tecum, records of the union which are in his custody and which might tend to incriminate him. He relies upon the "unreasonable search and seizure" clause of the Fourth Amendment and the explicit guarantee of the Fifth Amendment that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. We hold, however, that neither the Fourth nor the Fifth Amendment, both of which are directed primarily to the protection of individual and personal rights, requires the recognition of a privilege against self-incrimination under the circumstances of this case.
The constitutional privilege against self-incrimination is essentially a personal one, applying only to natural individuals. It grows out of the high sentiment and regard of our jurisprudence for conducting criminal trials and investigatory proceedings upon a plane of dignity, humanity and impartiality. It is designed to prevent the use of legal process to force from the lips of the accused individual the evidence necessary to convict him or to force him to produce and authenticate any personal documents or effects that might incriminate him. Physical torture and other less violent but equally reprehensible modes of compelling the production of incriminating evidence are thereby avoided. The prosecutors are forced to search for independent evidence instead of relying upon proof extracted from individuals by force of law. The immediate and potential evils of compulsory self-disclosure transcend any difficulties that the exercise of the privilege may impose on society in the detection and prosecution of crime. While the privilege is subject to abuse and misuse,
Since the privilege against self-incrimination is a purely personal one, it cannot be utilized by or on behalf of any organization, such as a corporation. Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43; Wilson v. United States, 221 U.S. 361; Essgee Co. v. United States, 262 U.S. 151. See also United States v. Invader Oil Corp., 5 F.2d 715. Moreover, the papers and effects which the privilege protects must be the private property of the person claiming the privilege, or at least in his possession in a purely personal capacity. Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616. But individuals, when acting as representatives of a collective group, cannot be said to be exercising their personal rights and duties nor to be entitled to their purely personal privileges. Rather they assume the rights, duties and privileges of the artificial entity or association of which they are agents or officers and they are bound by its obligations. In their official capacity, therefore, they have no privilege against self-incrimination. And the official records and documents of the organization that are held by them in a representative rather than in a personal capacity cannot be the subject of the personal privilege against self-incrimination, even though production of the papers might tend to incriminate them personally. Wilson v. United States, supra; Dreier v. United States, 221 U.S. 394; Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 221 U.S. 612; Wheeler v. United States, 226 U.S. 478; Grant v. United States, 227 U.S. 74; Essgee Co. v. United States, supra. Such records and papers are not the private records of the individual members or officers of the organization. Usually, if not always, they are open to inspection by the members and this right may be enforced on appropriate
The reason underlying the restriction of this constitutional privilege to natural individuals acting in their own private capacity is clear. The scope and nature of the economic activities of incorporated and unincorporated organizations and their representatives demand that the constitutional power of the federal and state governments to regulate those activities be correspondingly effective. The greater portion of evidence of wrongdoing by an organization or its representatives is usually to be found in the official records and documents of that organization. Were the cloak of the privilege to be thrown around these impersonal records and documents, effective enforcement of many federal and state laws would be impossible. See Hale v. Henkel, supra, 70, 74; 8 Wigmore on Evidence (3d ed.) § 2259a. The framers of the constitutional guarantee against compulsory self-disclosure, who were interested primarily in protecting individual civil liberties, cannot be said to have intended the privilege to be available to protect economic or other interests of such organizations so as to nullify appropriate governmental regulations.
The fact that the state charters corporations and has visitorial powers over them provides a convenient vehicle for justification of governmental investigation of corporate books and records. Hale v. Henkel, supra; Wilson v. United States, supra. But the absence of that fact as to a particular type of organization does not lessen the public necessity for making reasonable regulations of its activities effective, nor does it confer upon such an organization the purely personal privilege against self-incrimination. Basically, the power to compel the production of the records of any organization, whether it be incorporated
It follows that labor unions, as well as their officers and agents acting in their official capacity, cannot invoke this personal privilege. This conclusion is not reached by any mechanical comparison of unions with corporations or with other entities nor by any determination of whether unions technically may be regarded as legal personalities for any or all purposes. The test, rather, is whether one can fairly say under all the circumstances that a particular type of organization has a character so impersonal in the scope of its membership and activities that it cannot be said to embody or represent the purely private or personal interests of its constituents, but rather to embody their common or group interests only. If so, the privilege cannot be invoked on behalf of the organization or its representatives in their official capacity. Labor unions — national or local, incorporated or unincorporated — clearly meet that test.
Structurally and functionally, a labor union is an institution which involves more than the private or personal interests of its members. It represents organized, institutional activity as contrasted with wholly individual activity. This difference is as well defined as that existing between individual members of the union. The union's existence in fact, and for some purposes in law, is as perpetual as that of any corporation, not being dependent upon the life of any member. It normally operates under its own constitution, rules and by-laws which, in controversies between member and union, are often enforced by the courts. The union engages in a multitude of business and other official concerted activities, none of which
Moreover, this Court in United Mine Workers v. Coronado Coal Co., 259 U.S. 344, held that labor unions might be made parties defendant in suits for damages under the Sherman Act by service of process on their officers.
Both common law rules and legislative enactments have granted many substantive rights to labor unions as separate functioning institutions. In United Mine Workers v. Coronado Coal Co., supra, 385-386, this Court pointed out that "the growth and necessities of these great labor organizations have brought affirmative legal recognition of their existence and usefulness and provisions for their protection, which their members have found necessary. Their right to maintain strikes, when they do not violate law or the rights of others, has been declared. The embezzlement of funds by their officers has been especially denounced as a crime. The so-called union label, which is a quasi trademark to indicate the origin of manufactured product in union labor, has been protected against pirating and deceptive use by the statutes of most of the states, and in many states authority to sue to enjoin its use has been conferred on unions. They have been given distinct and separate representation and the right to appear to represent union interests in statutory arbitrations, and before official labor boards." Even greater substantive rights have been granted labor unions by federal and state legislation subsequent to the statutes enumerated in the opinion in that case.
It is unnecessary to determine whether or not respondent was a member of the union in question, for in either event he could not invoke the privilege against self-incrimination under these facts. It is likewise immaterial whether the union was subject to the provisions of the statute in relation to which the grand jury was making
The judgment of the court below must be reversed and that of the District Court affirmed.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS, MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER and MR. JUSTICE JACKSON concur in the result.