less than 1 minute read

Barenblatt v. United States

The Hollywood Ten

The Hollywood Ten trials stand as a landmark in the history of the abuse of civil liberties. Ten screenwriters and directors--Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo--were subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer questions regarding affiliation with the Communist party. Each of them refused to answer the questions on the grounds that such questions violated their First Amendment right to privacy or a right to remain silent, regarding their political beliefs or affiliations. The courts rejected the argument, found the ten guilty of contempt of Congress, and gave them prison sentences lasting from six months to one year and a monetary fine.

The trials created a precedent for making political belief a test of employment, blacklisting individuals accused of being Communist sympathizers by motion picture companies, radio and television broadcasters, and other firms in the industry occurred. As respected author E. B. White commented, "Ten men have been convicted, not of wrong-doing but of wrong thinking; that is news in this country and if I have not misread my history, it is bad news."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Barenblatt v. United States - Significance, Government Interest In Self-preservation Found To Outweigh First Amendment Concerns, The Hollywood Ten