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COLE v. TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIV. IN NEW YORK

June 4, 1969

Lewis COLE, Eleanor Raskin, Thomas D. Hurwitz, Robert H. Roth, Columbia Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, suing on their own behalf and on behalf of all other individuals and/or organizations similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
The TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN the CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendants


Tenney, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: TENNEY

TENNEY, District Judge.

This is a motion brought on by the plaintiffs, Columbia University Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, and certain of its members, suing on behalf of other individuals and/or organizations similarly situated, for an order, pursuant to Rule 65(a), (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, restraining the defendants, The Trustees of Columbia University (hereinafter referred to as "the Trustees"), from disclosing, revealing or delivering any books, records, reports, correspondence, membership lists, associational information or other documents specified in a subpoena duces tecum served upon the Trustees by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of The Committee on Government Operations of the United States Senate. The Trustees, rather than risk contempt of Congress, for failure to comply with this subpoena issued by the Subcommittee, intend to release the material requested on June 5, 1969.

 The underlying cause of action seeks a declaratory judgment, pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 2201, declaring the subpoena duces tecum *fn1" served upon Columbia University unconstitutional and void, and a permanent injunction prohibiting the Trustees from complying therewith. *fn2" Plaintiffs allege jurisdiction of this court under Title 28, United States Code, Sections 1331, 1332, 1343(3)(4), Title 42, United States Code, Sections 1981 et seq., and the First, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

 Briefly, as background to the present litigation, Students for a Democratic Society (hereinafter referred to as "SDS") is an unincorporated association consisting of young people whose views may be considered to rest at the left of the political spectrum. They seek a radical, democratic program, the methods of which embody their vision, that is, a vision of a domocratic society "* * * where at all levels the people have control of the decisions which affect them and the resources on which they are dependent. * * *" (See Complaint at 2, Exh. B, annexed to Affidavit of William M. Kunstler, dated June 2, 1969.) In furtherance of the Society's objectives, its chapters and members have often been the focal point of the expression of opposition to certain foreign and domestic policies of the United States Government. In this respect, and in accordance with its aims and purposes, the organization has both directly and indirectly participated in campus disorders which have resulted from the spread of student unrest.

 On February 17, 1969, during the First Session of the 91st Congress, the Senate passed Resolution 26 authorizing the Committee on Government Operations or any subcommittee thereof, from February 1, 1969 through January 31, 1970, to:

 (1) make investigations into the efficiency and economy of operations of all branches of the Government, including the improper expenditure of Government funds in transactions between Government personnel and corporations or individuals. Cong.Rec.: S.Res. 26 § 1, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. (1969);

 (2) make a full and complete study and investigation of crime and lawlessness within the United States which affects the national health, welfare and safety. Cong.Rec.: S.Res. 26 § 4, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. (1969);

 (3) "* * * [ Make ] a full and complete study and investigation of riot, violent disturbances of the peace, vandalism, civil and criminal disorder, insurrection, the commission of crimes in connection therewith, the immediate and long-standing causes, the extent and effect of such occurrences and crimes, and measures necessary for their immediate and long-range prevention and for the preservation of law and order and to insure domestic tranquility within the United States." Cong.Rec.: S.Res. 26 § 5, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. (1969).

 (4) report to the Senate by January 31, 1970 and "* * * if deemed appropriate, include in its report specific legislative recommendations." Cong.Rec.: S.Res. 26 § 6, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. (1969).

 It should be noted as well that the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, ch. 753, tit. I, 60 Stat. 812, provides that:

 
"(a) Each standing committee of the Senate, including any subcommittee of any such committee, is authorized to hold such hearings * * * [and] to require by subpoena or otherwise the attendance of such witnesses and the production of such correspondence, books, papers, and documents * * * as it deems advisable * * *."

 Considering the complexity of the issues presently before this Court and the limited amount of time within which a determination herein must be made, I shall not be able to resolve all the problems which this litigation raises nor accompany those issues which I intend to rule on with the degree of analysis which would be appropriate under less pressing circumstances.

 Briefly, with regard to jurisdiction, although this action has been framed as one to enjoin certain individuals from complying with the terms of a Congressional subpoena, it camouflages its essence, that is, one seeking to affirmatively quash a subpoena issued by the authority of a Congressional Committee, and in which the members of the Committee itself are most appropriately parties defendant. Needless to say, it is fundamental that before this Court could quash a subpoena, it must have jurisdiction over the persons or parties whom it would seek to affect or enjoin. It, therefore, boggles the imagination to think that plaintiffs herein could reasonably expect this Court to quash a Congressional subpoena where not one member of the Committee was served with a copy of the motion, nor where the Committee was not present or represented in court for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction. In re Motion to Quash Subpoenas and Vacate Service, 146 F. Supp. 792, 794 (W.D.Pa.1956).

 Even assuming jurisdiction over this matter, however, the action is properly brought in the District of Columbia. It is established that in cases where jurisdiction is not solely founded on diversity of citizenship, the defendants' residence is the principal consideration for the purposes of venue. 28 U.S.C. § 1391 (Supp.1969). More specifically, where an action is primarily directed against a Senate subcommittee, whose interests would be most directly affected by a determination therein, it is in the interest of a centralized disposition of matters of national concern that the site of the litigation should be in the District of Columbia. More importantly, however, then District Judge Irving R. Kaufman, presently of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, noted in Fischler v. McCarthy, 117 F. Supp. 643 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 218 F.2d 164 (2 Cir., 1954), that it is undesirable to expose a subcommittee of the Senate to suits in various districts around the country. To allow otherwise would seriously impair the work of the Government. If this Court, therefore, were to sanction the bringing of suits against the recipients of Congressional subpoenas in the districts of their residence rather than against the Subcommittee itself in the district of its residence, it would be effectively thwarting the sound reasoning as set ...


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