In re Sawyer/Concurrence Stewart

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United States Supreme Court

360 U.S. 622

In re Sawyer

 Argued: May 19, 20, 1959. --- Decided: June 29, 1959


Mr. Justice STEWART, concurring in the result.

If, as suggested by my Brother FRANKFURTER, there runs through the principal opinion an intimation that a lawyer can invoke the constitutional right of free speech to immunize himself from even-handed discipline for proven unethical conduct, it is an intimation in which I do not join. A lawyer belongs to a profession with inherited standards of propriety and honor, which experience has shown necessary in a calling dedicated to the accomplishment of justice. He who would follow that calling must conform to those standards.

Obedience to ethical precepts may require abstention from what in other circumstances might be constitutionally protected speech. For example, I doubt that a physician who broadcast the confidential disclosures of his patients could rely on the constitutional right of free speech to protect him from professional discipline.

In the present case, if it had been charged or if it had been found that the petitioner attempted to obstruct or prejudice the due administration of justice by interfering with a fair trial, this would be the kind of a case to which the language of the dissenting opinion seems largely directed. [*] But that was not the charge here, and it is not the ground upon which the petitioner has been disciplined. Because I agree with the conclusion that there is not enough in this record to support the charge and the findings growing out of the petitioner's speech in Honokaa, I concur in the Court's judgment.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, whom Mr. Justice CLARK, Mr. Justice HARLAN and Mr. Justice WHITTAKER join, dissenting.

Petitioner was suspended from the practice of law in the Territory of Hawaii for one year. The charges on which the suspension rde r was based related (1) to a speech made by petitioner at Honokaa, Hawaii, while a criminal trial was in progress, in Honolulu, in which she was attorney of record and an active lawyer for the defense, and (2) to petitioner's interview of a juror, after the trial had terminated in a verdict of guilty. The judge presiding at the trial requested the Bar Association to investigate Mrs. Sawyer's conduct. Following investigation, charges and a recommendation of disciplinary action were filed with the Hawaii Supreme Court which referred the matter to its Legal Ethics Committee. Following a full hearing the Committee, in the main, agreed with the charges of the Bar Association and submitted its conclusion to the Hawaii Supreme Court which made a de novo examination of the record, resulting in the order now before us. The suspension order was based upon the Honokaa speech, although the Hawaii Supreme Court also found that the interview of the juror, in view of the circumstances under which it was made, constituted professional misconduct. The Court today finds the conclusions of the Hawaii Supreme Court, on which the suspension order is based, wanting in a reasonable foundation and directs the Hawaii court to readmit Mrs. Sawyer to the practice of law. Since this Court finds that the suspension order was grounded on the speech, it leaves unreviewed the finding of professional misconduct growing out of the juror interview. When the case goes back to Hawaii, the Hawaii Supreme Court is apparently free to take further disciplinary action. Putting to one side the charge of misconduct relating to the interview of the juror, I think the judgment below should stand since the suspension based on the misconduct relating to the Honokaa speech is fully supported by the record.

'We think,' says the opinion of Mr. Justice BRENNAN, 'that our review may be limited to the narrow question whether the facts adduced are capable of supporting the findings that the petitioner's speech impugned Judge Wiig's impartiality and fairness in conducting the Smith Act trial and thus reflected upon his integrity in the dispensation of justice in that case.' The limited reach of this question is illumined by the limited use made of the evidence in the record in Mr. Justice BRENNAN'S opinion. If the record contained no more than the portions of it that are drawn upon in Mr. Justice BRENNAN'S opinion, one would be led to conclude that the sole question in the case was whether the verbal content of the petitioner's speech, in disregard of all else, supported the findings of the Hawaii Supreme Court on which petitioner's suspension was based. Such is not the issue that the record as an entirety presents. In the law as elsewhere the answer to a problem largely depends on the way the question it presents is put. A wrong question is not likely to beget a right answer.

Brother BRENNAN'S formulation of the problem before us and the resulting restriction on its use of the record, misconceive the findings upon which petitioner's suspension was based and neglect important aspects of the relevant evidence. As a result, the Court seriously impairs the responsibility of the bar and, more particularly, of criminal lawyers engaged in the conduct of trials, by encouraging cases to be tried on the hustings and in the press, instead of within a court-room and subject to its constitutionally circumscribed safeguards.

Since the case must be seen in its true scope and perspective, it is important to state in full the findings of the Hawaii Supreme Court relevant to the speech:

'It is the finding and conclusion of this court that the allegations contained in the complaint of the Bar Association of Hawaii, more particularly paragraphs 'I,' 'II,' and 'III' thereof * * * have been sustained by convincing proof, by credible evidence of more than a mere preponderance; that the said respondent licensee, a member of the Bar of this court and an attorney at la, d uly licensed and admitted to practice before all of the courts of the Territory of Hawaii * * * did, as charged in said paragraph II, being then an attorney of record for a defendant in a then pending case in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii * * * during the course of trial of said case, to wit, on or about December 14, 1952, say during a speech to a public gathering in Honokaa, Hawaii, that horrible and shocking things were going on at said trial; that a fair trial was impossible; that all of the rules of evidence were being scrapped so the government could make its case; that the rules of evidence and procedure were made up as the case proceeded; and that unless the trial was stopped in its tracks certain new crimes would be created. * * *

'Upon its finding and conclusion as stated supra, this court deems that in saying what she did in her speech to a public gathering at Honokaa, Hawaii, on December 14, 1952 * * * when there was then pending * * * a case under the Smith Act * * * she engaged and participated in a willful oral attack upon the administration of justice in and by the said United States District Court for the District of Hawaii and by direct statement and implication impugned the integrity of the judge presiding therein and in the said pending case * * * and thus tended to also create disrespect for the courts of justice and judicial officers generally, contra to the obligations and duties assumed, as incident to the license, by her and by every person to whom a license has or shall have been issued by this court to practice in the courts of the Territory of Hawaii. She has thus committed what this court considers gross misconduct.' 41 Haw. 403, at pages 421 423.

These conclusions, which essentially adopted the charges and conclusions of the Legal Ethics Committee, [1] rested on a de novo examination of the record of a full hearing before the Legal Ethics Committee, 'unprejudiced' by the findings of that Committee or of the Bar Association. A majority of the Court of Appeals agreed that the record supported the conclusions. 260 F.2d 189. Of course we are not a court of first instance in reviewing these findings. We are not empowered to set aside the conclusions of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, affirmed by the Court of Appeals, if its conclusions find reasonable support-that is, if conscientious judges could not unreasonably have reached such a conclusion on the strength of the evidence disclosed by the record and the inferences fairly to be drawn from it.

Thus, the real issue before us is whether evidence supports the conclusion that Mrs. Sawyer in her speech, in the full setting and implications of what she said, engaged in a willful attack on the administration of justice in the particular trial in which she was then actively participating, and patently impugned, even if by clear implication rather than by blatant words, the integrity of the presiding judge, and thereby violated the obligations of one in her immediate situation, judged by conventional professional standards, so as to be reasonably deemed to have committed what the Hawaii Supreme Court termed 'misconduct.'

One of the elements of the misconduct found by the Hawaii Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals was, without doubt, the attack on the integrity of the judge presiding at the trial in which she was engaged. Surely that does not mean she must have referred to Judge Wiig by name. Nor does it mean, as the opinion of Mr. Justice BRENNAN seems to assume, that any evidence which does not consist of a direct attack on the judge is irrelevant to the ultimate question: could the Hawaii Supreme Court have found petitioner guilty of misconduct as set forth in its opinion?

By carefully isolating various portions of the Matsuoka notes, [2] concentrating on them as a self-contained, insulated document, the opinion of Mr. Justice BRENNAN labors to put a neutral, if indeed not an innocently attractive, patina on Mrs. Sawyer's remarks. But the speech must be interpreted in its entirety, not distorted as an exercise in disjointed parsing. It must be placed in its context of time and circumstances. Nor can we neglect the fact that what people say is what others reasonably hear and are meant to hear. When this is done what emerges is no abstract attack on the state of the law, no analysis of the dubieties of Smith Act trials with which even judges may agree or, at all events, which critics have an unquestioned right to make, no Dickensian strictures on the injustices of legal proceedings, but a plainly conveyed attack on the conduct of a particular trial, presided over by a particular judge, involving particular defendants in whose defense Mrs. Sawyer herself was professionally engaged. There is ample support for the reasonable conclusion that, in making the fairness of the conduct of this particular trial the target of her appeal to a crowd outside while the trial was proceeding inside the court-room, Mrs. Sawyer was including in her assault the judicial officer who both in fact and in common understanding bears ultimate responsibility for the fairness and evenhandedness of judicial proceedings-the presiding judge. In examining this record sight must never be lost of the limited scope of our reviewing power. We are only concerned with whether the findings have fair support in the record. If the findings are so supported we have the right to strike down the suspension only if it transgresses constitutional limits. We must indeed have in mind, as the opinion of Mr. Justice BRENNAN reminds us, the entire 'context' of this speech. We must endeavor to understand the complete utterance in its setting, as it sounded and was meant to sound to its auditors in Honokaa, Hawaii, on December 14, 1952.

The Honokaa meeting was sponsored by a committee for the defense of Jack Hall, one of the principal defendants in the Smith Act trial then under way in Honolulu, [3] in which Mrs. Sawyer was one of the group of lawyers for the defense. It was publicly announced and advertised that the topic of the meeting would be the Smith Act trial in Honolulu. The general public was invited and members of the press were present, as well they might be expected to be at a meeting where among the principal speakers were a defendant and a defense attorney in a highly controversial trial. It was controversial, not an obscure, run-of-the-mill trial; it had been receiving front-page publicity in the Hawaii press for weeks. [4] The defendant Hall himself was one of the principal speakers and Mrs. Sawyer was on the platform. Her function was, as stated by Mr. Hall, 'to explain the legal aspects of the prosecution.' Certainly this setting precludes a naive conclusion that Mrs. Sawyer was delivering herself of an abstract dissertation on Smith Act trials, using illustrations from the Honolulu trial merely as 'typical present examples' of the evils of such prosecutions. The enveloping environment of her talk, intensified by much other evidence, gives substantial support to the conclusion that Mrs. Sawyer was, in the main, discussing and attacking the Honolulu trial and that her more general condemnations were directed toward, and designed to have particular applicability to, that trial.

The fullest account of the speech is found in the notes made by Matsuoka, a newspaperman covering the meeting. These notes, though not themselves contemporaneous, are a slightly expanded version of handwritten contemporaneous notes which Matsuoka took and used as the basis for his news story of the meeting. [5] Matsuoka testified that the notes were full and accurate and contained 'almost everything' of what Mrs. Sawyer said. It is significant that more than half of the notes contain comments directly and solely relating to the Honolulu trial. [6] However, these notes were not the only evidence of the cotent of the speech. Several persons who had been in the audience at Honokaa testified before the Legal Ethics Committee, and their testimony was part of the record considered by the Hawaii Supreme Court. This testimony lends substantial support to the finding that the basic intent and purport of the speech was to attack the conduct of the trial in which Mrs. Sawyer had been engaged on the day she made her speech and would again be engaged the next morning.

Thus, Matsuoka testified that Mrs. Sawyer spoke about

'The Smith Act trial; that was under way in Honolulu. She said she wanted to tell the people about some of the shocking, horrible things that went on, and that the Smith Act trial could not be a fair one, and that they just had to go around and make rules to fit the situation. That was, I think, the general trend.'

'She said that the trial was against Jack Hall, and six others were just brought in, and that its purpose was to get at the ILWU; she said that Jack Hall was being tried on something that he read many years ago, and she said that in the Smith Act trial there were no rules, and that they were making up the rules as they went along, and she said that the F.B.I. could be called Federal cops, and that when the government-they were stressing this case, and when the government-that witnesses were afraid to testify, and they testified usually what the government wanted them to testify.'

Here is another quotation from the testimony before the Hawaiian court:

'Q. Will you tell the Committee what Mrs. Bouslog said? A. Well, that the defendant in the Smith Act trial cannot get a fair trial.

'Q. What Smith Act trial was she talking about? A. The one in Honolulu.'

When to this evidence is added the setting we have described, and the fact that to those who read the Hawaii papers 'the' Smith Act trial, was the notorious, much-exploited trial of the 'Hawaii Seven,' how can one reasonably escape, on the basis of the record which determines our adjudication, the conclusion that Mrs. Sawyer was directly castigating the administration of the very trial in which she was then professionally engaged? [7] So viewed the specific statements which she made lose the aura of innocence the Court has cast about them and support the finding that Mrs. Sawyer was guilty of professional misconduct in attacking the administration of justice in the Honolulu trial and impugning the integrity of its presiding judge.

Matsuoka's notes reveal that Mrs. Sawyer began her speech by announcing that the Honolulu trial was 'to get at the ILWU (International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union).' She next said that 'she wanted to tell about some rather shocking and horrible things that go on at the trial.' The opinion of Mr. Justice BRENNAN views these remarks as merely 'introductory' to her later 'general' comments, neglecting the fact that most of her later comments were not general at all but related directly to the trial of Hall, and similarly neglecting the entire milieu in which the speech was delivered. The remarks were 'introductory,' but introductory in that they set the tone and temper of all that followed. There is ample testimony that her audience so understood the remarks. Their understanding was justified by what she said, and that they so reasonably understood what she said establishes the reasonableness of the conclusion that she intended them so to understand. This is the way the speech was remembered by one of her audience.

'I think she gave a very excellent speech, and what I can remember quite well was that she said she would like to tell the audience of the horrible and shocking things that went on at the Smith Act trial in Honolulu, and she also gave several illustrations, but, I am sorry, I cannot remember them * * *.'

Another witness when asked if Mrs. Sawyer had said that there were shocking and horrible things going on, responded that those phrases had been specifically directed at the 'Jack Hall trial.' Again, after testifying that Mrs. Sawyer had said the trial at Honolulu was not a fair trial, still another witness went on to say that 'she gave various examples of things, that I don't recall, that were going on, in what she called the horrifying shocking trial.'

That this theme of 'horrifying and shocking' so forcefully impressed itself on the people to whom she spoke strips the words of any neutral interpretation, and certainly justifies, if it does not compel, the inference that it formed the motif for the entire speech.

This evidence establishes more than that Mrs. Sawyer was attacking the conduct of the Honolulu trial at large. It clearly reflects on the judge who was permitting or participating in these 'shocking and horrible' things; at the lowest it allows the inference to be drawn, as the Hawaii Supreme Court did draw the inference, that she did so reflect. To suggest that the only reasonable inference we may draw from her speech is that petitioner was indicting the general state of the law or merely reflecting on the prosecution, is to deny the obvious fact that when a lawyer harangues a lay audience, wholly unskilled in drawing subtle distinctions for exculpatory purposes, about the horrible and shocking things going on in a judicial proceeding, he inevitably reflects upon the total conduct of that trial and upon the integrity of all, not excluding the judge, responsible for the conduct of the trial. Certainly if we, as lawyers, (sic) a confession out of one of them. of the horrible and shocking things that go on at X hospital, and the speaker dwelt on specific examples of conduct at that particular hospital, we would not assume that merely the general sad state of medicine was being impugned rather than the doctors and the administrators at that hospital.

Petitioner also declared in her speech that 'there's no fair trial in the case. they just make up the rules as they go along.' And again, 'there's no such thing as a fair trial in a smith act case. all ruled of evidence have to be scrapped or the government can't make a case.' By an evaporating reading these comments are made to say that they 'obviously related to the state of the law, and to the conduct of the prosecution and the FBI * * *.' But the materials used to illustrate these charges were specific examples of the unconscionable use of evidence drawn from this particular trial, as the defendant Hall himself pointed out at he hearing before the Legal Ethics Committee. In fact, a large part of the speech was taken up with such specific examples. To say that petitioner was attacking the 'state of the law,' or the 'prosecution,' or, what is more to the point, to suggest that this is the only conclusion the Hawaii court could reasonably draw, rejects the obvious force of the evidence that her references throughout were to the manner in which this particular trial was being conducted [8] and disregards, it cannot be too often emphasized, the whole tone, nature and setting of her speech.

To be sure, petitioner often did not specify who was guilty of the sins which she chaged were being committed at this trial; the sins of unfairness, of ignoring or making up the rules, of doing 'anything and everything necessary to convict.' When such broadside attacks are made a court is not compelled to make the ingenuous assumption that they were directed only at those who are legitimately subject to such attack, when it is made by a trial lawyer in the midst of a case in a haranguing speech to a public gathering. It takes no master of psychology to know that if the speaker does not discriminate neither will the audience. Inevitably the accusation covers all those who in the common understanding have responsibility. Whatever secret reservations the speaker may have when he speaks does not infuse what he conveys. Even the most sophisticated audience is not so trained in withholding judgment that the heavy and repeated charges of unfairness in the conduct of this trial impliedly relieved the presiding judge, who bears basic responsibility for judicial proceedings, of all responsibility for this unfairness.

More than that, the attack on the judge presiding at the trial does not rest merely on implication. It was direct and clear. Again the remarks about unfairness and the rules that were 'made up' must be read not in isolation but in context. After outlining several examples of what she considered to be the outrageous evidence being admitted in this case, petitioner made her remark that there was 'no such thing as a fair trial in a smith act case. all rules of evidence have to be scrapped or the government can't make a case.' Matsuoka's notes reveal that she then proceeded to illustrate this remark by relating that in an earlier case of hers, in which the voluntariness of an accused's confession had been in issue, 'a woman came to her with report she heard vernon stevens (Stevens was a police officer) say he bet (sic) a confession out of one of them. she testified but the supreme court (of Hawaii) refused to let the evidence in because vernon stevens was not here and had no chance to deny this. with the same situation a federal judge sitting on a federal bench permits crouch [9] to testify about 27 years ago. what was said then. in the previous case it was the life and death of one. and yet here they permit a witness to tell what was said when a defendant was five years old.' This graphic illustration was followed by the remark that 'there's no fair trial in the case. they just make up the rules as they go along.' Crouch was a witness in the Honolulu trial whose testimony had been attacked earlier in the speech, and the 'federal judge' was Judge Wiig who was presiding over that trial. This portion of the speech dispels any illusions that the condemnatory remarks made by petitioner could not reasonably be thought to relate to the conduct of this trial. In the context of the entire speech it is inescapably a direct reflection on the fairness and integrity of this particular judge in this particular case. This was no abstract assault on the rigors of hearsay. Petitioner attacked the fairness of the trial and the scrapping of the rules of evidence. She then pointed to a ruling of Judge Wiig which she said was highly prejudicial and hardly left doubt that it was made in this particular trial. She then repeated her charge that the trial was unfair and the rules made up. To suggest that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from these remarks is that the conduct of the prosecution or the law of evidence in the abstract was impugned, is really asking too much from judges, even if we accept Mr. Justice Holmes' view that judges 'are apt to be naif, simple-minded men.' Holmes, Collected Legal Papers, p. 295. The attacks on fairness and the misuse of rules are made vivid by the illustration used-and that illustration directly involved Judge Wiig. [10]

It is true that the charges which were found proven as the basis of the suspension did not state in terms that petitioner intended to obstruct justice. To reverse the two courts below on this ground is to resurrect the worst niceties of long-interred common-law pleading. The charges on the basis of which the petitioner was found guilty of misconduct are not to be read with 'the inability of the seventeenth century common law to understand or accept a pleading that did not exclude every misinterpretation capable of occurring to intelligence fired with a desire to pervert.' Paraiso v. United States, 207 U.S. 368, 372, 28 S.Ct. 127, 129, 52 L.Ed. 249. It was found that her attacks on the fairness of the trial and the integrity of the judge at a 'public' meeting, while she was actively engaged in the conduct of the defense, rose to the level of 'gross misconduct.' This is not a charge of an attack made in a private conversation between friends. Whether there has been professional misconduct must depend upon the situation in which improper remarks were uttered. Thus, we would have to ignore what the Hawaii court had before it and was compelled to consider, did we not take into account the severely aggravating circumstances under which this speech was made. This attack was made at a public gathering announced as such. It was advertised as a discussion of the Smith Act trial then under way. That trial was a matter of great controversy and public interest and was being reported daily on the front page of the Honolulu newspapers. [11] It is true that the speech was made on the Island of Hawaii, not on Oahu where the trial took place. However, Hawaii in 1952 was not the inaccessible wilds of Africa in the time of Dr. Livingston, but part of a community bound together by modern means of communication and transportation, and news could be, and was in this very case, transmitted instantaneously by radiophone to Honolulu. See the Honolulu Star Bulletin for Dec. 15, 1952, p. 5. The news story of petitioner's speech was in the Honolulu newspapers the next day. Ibid. The speech was made at a time when motions concerning the very evidence which petitioner was castigating were still sub judice. The attacks on fairness, the descriptions of the trial as horrible and shocking, were made while the jury was open and receptive to media of communication, to the impregnating atmosphere to which juries, certainly in this country, are subjected. Even though petitioner may not have had a provable desire, the specific intent, to affect the pending trial and its outcome, are we really required to attribute to the petitioner a child-like unawareness of the inevitability that her remarks would be reported and find their way to judge or jury, as they did? The very next day the speech ame to the judge's attention and registered so powerfully that he felt called upon to defend his conduct of the trial in open court.

The record is thus replete with evidence to support the conclusion that virtually the entire speech constituted a direct attack on the judicial conduct of this trial during its progress by one of the lawyers for the defense. When a lawyer attacks the fairness, the even-handedness, and the integrity of the proceedings in a trial in which he himself is actively engaged, in the inflammatory, public fashion that this record reveals, supplemented with specific attack on the presiding judge, how can the conclusion be escaped that it was not rules of law in the abstract which were assailed, but the manner in which the processes of justice in the particular case were being conducted? More particularly, such an attack inescapably impugns the integrity of the judge. It is he who truly embodies the law as the guardian of the rights of defendants to justice under law. If a record is to be considered in its entirety, and not to be read through exculpatory glasses, the proof will be found to be conclusive that the findings of the Hawaii Supreme Court are supported by the evidence, and that, in relation to a pending trial, those findings constituted a fair basis for the conclusion that petitioner has 'committed * * * gross misconduct.'

Having arrived at this conclusion, our task is at an end, and the order suspending Mrs. Sawyer from the practice of law for one year should be affirmed. But throughout the opinion of Mr. Justice BRENNAN runs the strong intimation that if the findings are supportable, a suspension based on them would be unconstitutional. This must be the import of the opinion's discussion of a lawyer's right to criticize law. For if we find that the evidence supports the findings, no matter what we think of the wisdom of suspending an attorney on the basis of such findings, we can only reverse if the Constitution so commands. Nor does it matter whether the suspension was based on an act of the Hawaii Legislature or was an exercise of the judicial power of the Hawaii Supreme Court. The controlling question is the power of a Territory, like a State, as a whole, whatever the organ through which a State speaks. Rippey v. Texas, 193 U.S. 504, 509, 24 S.Ct. 516, 517, 48 L.Ed. 767; Castillo v. McConnico, 168 U.S. 674, 683, 18 S.Ct. 229, 233, 42 L.Ed. 622; State of Missouri v. Dockery, 191 U.S. 165, 171, 24 S.Ct. 53, 54, 48 L.Ed. 133; Iowa-Des Moines National Bank v. Bennett, 284 U.S. 239, 244, 52 S.Ct. 133, 135, 76 L.Ed. 265; Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 79, 61 S.Ct. 924, 930, 85 L.Ed. 1193. (There is no basis for suggesting that Congress has restricted the judicial power of Hawaii so as to bar the action taken by the Supreme Court of Hawaii.)

The problem raised by this case-is the particular conduct in which this petitioner engaged constitutionally protected from the disciplinary proceedings of courts of law?-cannot be disposed of by general observations about freedom of speech. Of course, the free play of the human mind is an indispensable prerequisite of a free society. And freedom of thought is meaningless without freedom of expression. But the two great Justices to whom we mostly owe the shaping of the constitutional protection of freedom of speech, Mr. Justice Holmes and Mr. Justice Brandeis, did not erect freedom of speech into a dogma of absolute validity nor enforce it to doctrinaire limits. Time, place and circumstances determine the constitutional protection of utterance. The First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, insofar as it protects freedom of speech, are no exception to the law of life enunciated by Ecclesiastes: 'For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.' And one of the instances specifically enumeraed by the Preacher controls our situation: '(A) time to keep silence, and a time to speak.' Eccles. 3:1, 7. Of course, a lawyer is a person and he too has a constitutional freedom of utterance and may exercise it to castigate courts and their administration of justice. But a lawyer actively participating in a trial, particularly an emotionally charged criminal prosecution, is not merely a person and not even merely a lawyer. If the prosecutor in this case had felt hampered by some of the rulings of the trial judge, and had assailed the judge for such rulings at a mass meeting, and a conviction had followed, and that prosecutor had been disciplined for such conduct according to the orderly procedure for such disciplinary action, is it thinkable that this Court would have found that such conduct by the prosecutor was a constitutionally protected exercise of his freedom of speech, or, indeed, would have allowed the conviction to stand?

Only the other day, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Swan, Madden and Hincks, JJ.) severely reprimanded a United States attorney for a speech in response to a prior invitation by alumni of a law school but made while he was conducting an important criminal trial, although the speech contained no reference to the pending case or to any of its defendants but merely 'expatiated on the menace of organized crime.' United States v. Stromberg, 268 F.2d 256. Even under the most favoring circumstances-an able, fearless, and fastidiously impartial judge, competent and scrupulous lawyers, a befittingly austere courtroom atmosphere-trial by jury of a criminal case where public feeling is deeply engaged is no easy accomplishment, as every experienced lawyer knows, if due regard is to be had to the letter and spirit of the Constitution for such a trial. It is difficult enough to seal the courtroom, as it were, against outside pressures. The delicate scales of justice ought not to be willfully agitated from without by any of the participants responsible for the fair conduct of the trial. To be sure, a prosecutor carries a somewhat heavier responsibility in the maintenance of the standards of criminal justice than does counsel for the defense. But the difference in responsibility is surely not so vast that counsel for defense has a constitutionally guarded freedom to conduct himself as this petitioner has been found to do, when that same conduct would bring condign punishment for the prosecutor.

What we are concerned with is the specific conduct, as revealed by this record, of a particular lawyer, and not whether like findings applied to an abstract situation relating to an abstract lawyer would support a suspension. All the circumstances we have set forth must determine judgment. Here was a public meeting addressed by counsel for the defense, haranguing a crowd on the unfairness to the defendant of the proceedings in court, with the high probability indeed almost certainty under modern conditions that the goings-on of the meeting would come to the attention of the presiding judge and the jury. It took place in a case in which public interest and public tempers had been aroused. When the story of the meeting came to the attention of the judge, he felt obliged publicly to defend his conduct. It is hard to believe that this Court should hold that a member of the legal profession is constitutionally entitled to remove his case from the court in which he is an officer to the public and press, and express to them his grievances against the conduct of the trial and the judge. 'Legal trials,' said this Court, 'are not like elections, to be won through the use of the meeting-hall, the radio, and the newspaper.' Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 271, 62 S.Ct. 190, 197.

Even in the absence of the substantial likelihood that what was said at a public gathering would reach the judge or jury, conduct of the kind found here cannot be deemed to be protected by the Constitution. An attorney actively engaged in the conduct of a tral is not merely another citizen. He is an intimate and trusted and essential part of the machinery of justice, an 'officer of the court' in the most compelling sense. He does not lack for a forum in which to make his charges of unfairness or failure to adhere to principles of law; he has ample chance to make such claims to the courts in which he litigates. As long as any tribunal bred in the fundamentals of our legal tradition, ultimately this Court, still exercises judicial power those claims will be heard and heeded.

Certainly courts are not, and cannot be, immune from criticism, and lawyers, of course, may indulge in criticism. Indeed, they are under a special responsibility to exercise fearlessness in doing so. But when a lawyer goes before a public gathering and fiercely charges that the trial in which he is a participant is unfair, that the judge lacks integrity, the circumstances under which he speaks not only sharpen what he says but he imparts to his attack inflaming and warping significance. He says that the very court-room into which he walks to plead his case is a travesty, that the procedures and reviews established to protect his client from such conduct are a sham. 'We are a society governed by law, whose integrity it is the lawyer's special role to guard and champion.' In re Howell, 10 N.J. 139, 142, 89 A.2d 652, 653 (concurring opinion). No matter how narrowly conceived this role may be, it has been betrayed by a lawyer who has engaged in the kind of conduct here found by the Hawaii court. Certainly this Court, the supreme tribunal charged with maintaining the rule of law, should be the last place in which these attacks on the fairness and integrity of a judge and the conduct of a trial should find constitutional sanction.

I would affirm the judgment.

Mr. Justice CLARK, dissenting.

Notes[edit]

^1  After the Bar Association had filed a complaint against Mrs. Sawyer, a complaint that was essentially in terms of findings of fact as to what she had said at Honokaa, a full investigation was made by the Legal Ethics Committee. This Committee then reported its findings of fact, conclusions and charges to the Hawaii Supreme Court which heard argument and made a de novo examination of the record. It is clear that these charges fully encompassed the basis for the Hawaii Supreme Court's own findings and that Mrs. Sawyer was fully and fairly apprised of the charges against her and the factual matters that were in dispute.

The Report of the Legal Ethics Committee, insofar as it was relevant to the speech, charged as follows:

'The Legal Ethics Committee * * * has investigated a complaint filed by the Bar Association of Hawaii and makes this report of the charges, facts and conclusions of the Committee pursuant to Rule 19.

'The Charges:

'The two charges made in this complaint have to do with (1) the alleged improper conduct of Mrs. Harriet Bouslog Sawyer, referred to in this report as 'Mrs. Bouslog,' in making a speech at Honokaa, Hawaii, on December 14, 1952, and (2) the alleged improper conduct in connection with her interview of the juror David P. Fuller, as more fully set forth in the Bill of Particulars dated September 29, 1954.

'The Facts:

'The Committee finds that Mrs. Bouslog was one of the attorneys appearing for certain defnda nts in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii entitled 'United States of America, Plaintiff, against Charles Kazuyuki Fujimoto, et als., Defendants,' being Criminal 10495 in that Court (107 F.Supp. 865); that on December 14, 1952, during the course of the trial, she made a speech at a public gathering at Honokaa, at which she said, among other things, that horrible and shocking things were going on at the trial; that there was no fair trial in the case; that they just made up the rules as they went along; that unless the Smith Act trial was stopped in its tracks in Honolulu there would be a new crime.

'Conclusions and Recommendations:

'The Committee is of the unanimous opinion that the Bar Association of Hawaii has sustained the allegations in paragraphs II and III of its complaint and that Mrs. Bouslog, in imputing to the Judge unfairness in the conduct of the trial, in impugning the integrity of the local Federal courts and in other comments made at Honokaa, was guilty of violation of Canons 1 and 22 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association and should be disciplined for the same.'

^2  The Matsuoka notes are reprinted at 260 F.2d 205-207.

^3  See Fujimoto v. United States, 9 Cir., 251 F.2d 342.

^4  See e.g., the Honolulu Star Bulletin for the month of December. In fact, the same day on which Mrs. Sawyer's speech was reported, a banner, lead headline announced the latest court-room developments, while the story of the action taken by the court in response to the speech occupied the front page for the next few days. See the Honolulu Star Bulletin for Dec. 15, 1952, et seq.

^5  The nature of the expansion was explained in the following colloquy between counsel and Matsuoka at the hearing before the Legal Ethics Committee:

'Q. You stated that the transcription of these notes were somewhat expanded from your original notes? A. Yes.

'Q. Would that also be true of the newspaper article? A. When I say expanded, I mean, like, when I take notes, I would not say, 'Robert Dodge yesterday,' I would say, 'Dodge,' or something like that, and expand that to make it understandable to the reader.

'Q. By expanding, not adding toit? A. No, not adding to.

'Q. Or an addition, or anything of that kind, but filling out what your notes indicated, is that it? A. That's right, by expanding on it.'

^6  It is fair to say that approximately 80 of the about 140 lines of the Matsuoka notes as reprinted in the record deal specifically with this particular trial and the evidence which was being introduced in Honolulu. Of course, as we have explained above, many of the more general comments could, in the context of this speech, be reasonably taken to refer to the Honolulu trial.

^7  Petitioner's lawyer had no doubt regarding the meaning and purport of the speech.

'I will say to the Committee right now-I have read these speeches and I would agree with the conclusion implicit in Mr. Dodge's question; namely that this was a talk about what was going on in the Smith Act trial here in Honolulu. Now, let's not fool ourselves about that. We're lawyers here.'

^8  Mrs. Sawyer herself, in explaining her remarks to the court, pointed out that part of her speech 'was devoted to a discussion of the evidence on which the prosecution in this case is seeking to convict Jack Hall and the other six defendants in this case. * * *'

The record discloses that other witnesses also understood that her references were to the 'rules being made up as they went along' at this particular trial.

^9  The fact that the notorious Crouch was involved is, of course, wholly irrelevant to the issues in this case. Any grievances arising out of Crouch's testimony were properly to be pursed in the orderly course of justice in trial and appellate courts and eventually here. See Communist Party v. Subversive Activities Control Board, 351 U.S. 115, 76 S.Ct. 663, 100 L.Ed. 1003.

^10  Certainly Mrs. Sawyer's explanation of these remarks does not help us rationally to avoid Holmes' characterization. After a discussion of the refusal of the Hawaii Supreme Court to admit the evidence in the previous trial referred to by Mrs. Sawyer, petitioner was asked:

'Mr. Barlow: In other words, would it be fair to say that you paralleled that with the phrase that Mr. Matsuoka attributes to you: 'With the same situation, a Federal judge, sitting on a Federal Bench, permits Crouch to testify about 27 years ago what was said then'?

'The Witness: I used the Palakiko-Majors case as a contrast to Mr. Crouch's testimony and the hearsay testimony in the conspiracy case.

'Q. That Judge Wiig was allowing in the present Smith Act case, is that right? A. The motions hadn't been argued yet.

'Q. No, but that Judge Wiig was allowing in the present Smith Act case? A. Yes, he was.

'Q. That is what you were critical about? Is that right? A. I was reporting. I left that to the audience.' (Emphasis added.)

^11  See, e.g., the Honolulu Star Bulletin for the month of December. There are also references throughout the record to the notorious nature of the trial.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).