Title III – Recalcitrant Witnesses

This title represents a congressional attempt to codify the court-developed civil contempt practice. When a witness is granted immunity and still refuses to answer the question presented to him he can be ordered by a court to answer the specific question. Upon his continued refusal, a court can have him confined summarily until he complies with such order, or until he is no longer able to comply. Such confinement is not intended to be punitive in nature, but rather to coerce compliance with the court’s order by imposing imprisonment as an alternative to answering the question. The witness will be released from confinement as soon as he is willing to obey the court order. Consequently, he is said to carry “the keys of [his] prison in [his] own pockets.” Since the confinement is based on the witness’ refusal to comply, however, he may not be jailed after it is impossible for him effectively to carry out the court’s order, i.e., after the relevant proceeding has terminated. As a result of the purpose of the confinement and its particular features, the remedy is considered civil in nature, and the witness is not entitled to the same procedural protections that are provided for the defendant accused of a criminal act. Thus, an indictment and jury trial are not within the due process requirements which must be afforded the recalcitrant witness.