Kilbourn v. Thompson
Significance, An Uncooperative Witness, Preserving The Separation Of Powers, Congressional Immunity, Samuel R. Lowery, African American Lawyer
John G. Thompson, Michael C. Kerr, John M. Glover, Jeptha D. New, Burwell P. Lewis, A. Herr Smith
Kilbourn objected to the fact that he had been called before a committee of Congress, and, refusing to answer questions, had been jailed for contempt of Congress. He brought suit against Thompson, the sergeant-at-arms, as well as against the five members of the congressional committee that had called him.
Chief Lawyers for Plaintiff
Charles A. Eldredge, Enoch Totten, Noah L. Jeffries
Chief Defense Lawyers
Walter H. Smith, Frank H. Hurd
Justices for the Court
Salmon Portland Chase, Nathan Clifford, Stephen Johnson Field, John Marshall Harlan I, Ward Hunt, Stanley Matthews, Samuel Freeman Miller (writing for the Court), Morrison Remick Waite, William Burnham Woods
Date of Decision
28 February 1881
That Congress had exceeded its powers in subpoenaing and imprisoning Kilbourn, because the congressional investigation for which he had been called did not actually concern legislation; however, because of congressional immunity, only Thompson could be punished for the improper action.
- Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386 (1798).
- Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866).
- Loan Association v. Topeka, 87 U.S. 655 (1875).
- United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876).
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- Kilbourn v. Thompson - Samuel R. Lowery, African American Lawyer
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