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Watkins v. United States

Significance, Supreme Court Rules That Congressional Power Of Investigation Is Not Unlimited, Further Readings


John T. Watkins


United States

Petitioner's Claim

That Congress does not have unlimited power to investigate the private lives of individual citizens.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

J. Lee Rankin, U. S. Solicitor General

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, John Marshall Harlan II, Earl Warren (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

Tom C. Clark (Harold Burton and Charles Evans Whittaker did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

17 June 1957


The Supreme Court ruled that the congressional power of investigation is not unlimited and should not intrude upon law enforcement, a function of the executive branch, or try cases, thus assuming a judicial role.

Related Cases

  • Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168 (1881).
  • American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382 (1950).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962