Legislation – Witness Immunity Act of 1954 – Constitutional and Interpretative Problem

The passage in August, 1954 of a federal statute granting immunity under specified conditions to witnesses before congressional committees and in the federal courts marks a third legislative experiment designed to soften the effect of the Fifth Amendment as a limitation on the investigatory power of Congress. The first two attempts were less than successful. This comment will discuss the historical background of immunity legislation, and some possible constitutional pitfalls and problems of construction created by the statutory language.