The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Samuel L. Popkin, assistant professor of Government, to agree to answer three questions before a Boston grand jury investigating the Pentagon Papers case or face penalties for civil contempt.
In the same order and memorandum, which was issued Friday, the court refused to grant any stays of sentence while Popkin attempts to seek opinions from a higher court.
The order gives Popkin 21 days to agree -- in writing -- to answer the three disputed questions. A refusal could curry a prison sentence of up to 18 months.
In effect, the court has reaffirmed its May 3 decision, while further limiting Popkin's ability to avoid full compliance with the grand jury.
The court order comes as a result of the government's denial that it had used electronic eavesdropping in the Popkin case. That disclaimer, required by a July 12 ruling of the same court, was filed on October 6.
Popkin has been attempting for more than a year to avoid answering certain questions before the grand jury, on the grounds that he felt that doing so would compromise his academic sources and that the questions were irrelevant to the mainstream of the grand jury's investigation.
The three disputed questions are the remains of an original 14 brought to the court by the government. Earlier this year, Boston's Federal District Court found Popkin in contempt for not answering seven of the 14 questions: a later ruling by the appeals court lowered that number to three.
Those three questions, as listed by the court in its order, are:
"Who are the persons you interviewed in order to acquire this knowledge of who participated in the Pentagon Papers study?"
"Who are those persons to whom you are referring with regard to conversations in the district of Massachusetts which led you to the knowledge of who the participants were in the Pentagon Papers study?"
"Did Daniel Ellsberg ever discuss with you the content or existence of the Pentagon Papers between Jan. 1, 1971, and June 13, 1971?"
Popkin said last night that the new order is "neither a setback or a go-ahead. What they said shouldn't be seen as a plus or a minus: it's just that I have to face the problem again after a few months of peace."
He added that he and his attorneys would definitely file an appeal with the Supreme Court. Daniel Klubock, attorney for Popkin, said last night that the motion would "definitely come within the next 21 days."