ALBERTSON V. SACB, 382 U. S. 70 (1965)

382 U. S. 70

U.S. Supreme Court

Albertson v. SACB, 382 U.S. 70 (1965)

Albertson v. Subversive Activities Control Board

No. 3

Argued October 18, 1965

Decided November 15, 1965

382 U.S. 70


Despite the order of the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB), sustained in Communist Party of the United States v. SACB, 367 U. S. 1, the Party failed to register under the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950, and no list of members was filed. The Attorney General, in accordance with § 13(a) and §§ 8(a) and (c) of the Act, asked the SACB to order petitioners, as Party members, to register and submit a registration statement. The SACB did order petitioners to register and submit the registration statement, and the Court of Appeals affirmed these orders, finding the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination issue not ripe for adjudication.


1. Petitioners' claims of the privilege against self-incrimination are ripe for adjudication. Pp. 382 U. S. 73-77.

(a) As distinguished from the Communist Party case, the contingencies upon which the members' duty to register arises have matured, the petitioners have claimed the privilege, and the Attorney General has rejected such claims. Pp. 382 U. S. 74-75.

(b) Petitioners are faced with the choice of registering without a decision on the merits of their claims or subjecting themselves to serious punishment. Pp. 382 U. S. 75-76.

(c) Respondent's attempt to distinguish between claims of privilege relating to the SACB's power to compel registration and submission of a registration statement, concerning which it concedes that the Court of Appeals' holding of prematurity was erroneous, and claims of privilege against "any particular inquiry" on the registration form or registration statement, is without merit. The statute and regulations issued thereunder require petitioners to register and submit the forms fully executed in accordance with present regulations. Pp. 382 U. S. 76-77.

2. The requirement of filing the registration form (IS-52a) is incriminatory within the meaning of the Self-Incrimination Clause because the admission of Party membership, required by the form, might be used as an investigatory lead to or evidence in a criminal prosecution. Pp. 382 U. S. 77-78. clubjuris

Page 382 U. S. 71

3. The requirement of completing and filing the registration statement (IS-52), considered apart from the registration form, would also be incriminatory because the information might be used as evidence in, or supply leads to, a criminal prosecution. United States v. Sullivan, 274 U. S. 259, distinguished. Pp. 382 U. S. 78-79.

4. The Act's immunity provision, § 4(f), does not save the orders to register from petitioners' Fifth Amendment challenge. Pp. 382 U. S. 79-81.

(a) The immunity provision does not preclude the use of information called for by the registration statement (IS-52) either as evidence or an investigatory lead. P. 382 U. S. 80.

(b) The immunity provision does not preclude the use of an admission of Party membership on the registration form (IS-52a) as an investigatory lead, a use barred by the self-incrimination privilege. P. 382 U. S. 80.

(c) Respondent's argument that, since an order to register follows an SACB finding of Party membership, the admission of Party membership by registering is of no investigatory value, and thus not "incriminatory," would make the right to invoke the privilege depend upon an assessment of information in the Government's possession. This would negate the complete protection from all perils that an immunity statute must provide according to Counselman v. Hitchcock, 142 U. S. 547. P. 81.

118 U.S.App.D.C. 117, 332 F.2d 317, reversed.