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05/16/78 ANSWER JUSTICES TO HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES

May 16, 1978

ANSWER OF THE JUSTICES TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


Edward F. Hennessey, Francis J. Quirico, Benjamin Kaplan, Herbert P. Wilkins, Paul J. Liacos, Ruth I. Abrams. Mr. Justice Braucher concurs but is unavailable for signature.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Supreme Judicial Court, Opinions of the Justices. Constitutional Law, Opinions of the Justices.

The Justices declined to answer a question by the House of Representatives as to whether it is constitutionally competent for the Joint Legislative Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, which was conducting "an authorized examination and review" under the authority of G. L. c. 3, § 63, of certain construction contracts, to delegate by majority vote the power to subpoena witnesses and records to a subcommittee or to a member of the subcommittee; a "solemn occasion" did not exist, and, moreover, the committee had adopted a rule of procedure returning to it the power to issue subpoenas. [824-825]

The Justices declined to answer a question by the House of Representatives as to whether it is constitutionally competent for the Joint Legislative Committee on Post Audit and Oversight to subpoena a member of the General Court, his personal records, or records pertaining to him, in connection with the committee's investigation into certain construction contracts; no "solemn occasion" existed since the Governor had approved a resolution establishing a special commission and providing for the termination of the committee's investigations, and since the only outstanding subpoena was the subject of a pending action in the Superior Court. [825]

On May 16, 1978, the Justices submitted the following answer to questions propounded to them by the House of Representatives.

To the Honorable the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

The undersigned Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court respectfully submit the following answers to the questions set forth in an order adopted by the House of Representatives on April 6, 1978, and transmitted to the Justices on April 10, 1978.

The order recites that the Joint Legislative Committee on Post Audit and Oversight (Joint Committee) is conducting "an authorized examination and review," see G. L. c. 3, § 63, concerning the award and execution of construction contracts at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. The purpose of the committee's review is to determine whether improprieties or crimes have been committed, and to assess the need for legislative action, including but not limited to a consideration of House No. 5330, entitled "An Act relative to the awarding of public construction contracts."

It was further recited in the April 6 order that the Joint Committee had delegated the task of conducting the review to a subcommittee composed of some of its members. This subcommittee had further delegated the power of subpoena to its chairman.

The chairman "has issued a subpoena for the personal records of a member of the General Court." The subcommittee further intends to "interrogate legislators in reference to their deliberations relative to a Special Legislative Committee Report on the performance of the McKee-Berger-Mansueto Firm at the construction site of the University of Massachusetts at Boston."

The House of Representatives inquires:

"1. Is it constitutionally competent for the Joint Legislative Committee on Post Audit and Oversight to delegate by majority vote of the Committee the power to subpoena witnesses and records to a subcommittee of said Committee or to a member of said Committee?

"2. Is it constitutionally competent for the Joint Legislative Post Audit and Oversight Committee to subpoena a member of the General Court, his personal records, or records pertaining to him in possession of a bank, or other institution or person?"

We invited the submission of briefs from interested persons, and we express our thanks for the briefs submitted on behalf of the ...


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