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McGrain v. Daugherty

Teapot Dome, Daugherty's Brother Is Called To Testify, Mcgrain Prevails In High Court


John J. McGrain


Mally S. Daugherty

Appellant's Claim

That the U.S. Senate had not exceeded its authority in compelling a witness to testify before a committee investigating the Teapot Dome scandal.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

George W. Wickersham

Chief Lawyers for Appellee

Arthur I. Vorys, John P. Phillips

Justices for the Court

Louis D. Brandeis, Pierce Butler, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Clark McReynolds, Edward Terry Sanford, George Sutherland, William Howard Taft, Willis Van Devanter (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

None (Harlan Fiske Stone did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

17 January 1927


The Senate had not exceeded its authority because congressional investigations are presumed to serve some legislative purpose.


The Supreme Court's decision in McGrain v. Daugherty dramatically expanded Congress's ability to investigate the lives and activities of citizens.


The impact of the Supreme Court's decision in McGrain v. Daugherty was felt most acutely by the subjects of congressional investigations in the 1950s, when suspected Communists were compelled to testify before House and Senate committees. The Supreme Court often relied upon the presumption of legislative purpose outlined in this case to justify those investigations.

Related Cases

  • Reed v. County Commissioners of Delaware County, 277 U.S. 376 (1928).
  • Leonard v. Earle, 279 U.S. 392 (1929).
  • Adams v. Maryland, 347 U.S. 179 (1954).
  • Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359 (1956).


Knappman, Edward W., ed. Great American Trials. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1994.

Further Readings

  • Chandler, Ralph C. The Constitutional Law Dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1987.
  • Cushman, Robert Fairchild with Susan P. Koniak. Leading Constitutional Decisions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1992.
  • Menez, Joseph Francis. Summaries of Leading Cases of the Constitution. Savage, MD: Littlefield, Adams, 1990.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940