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UNITED STATES v. WALLACE & TIERNAN CO. ET AL.

decided: May 2, 1949.

UNITED STATES
v.
WALLACE & TIERNAN CO. ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND.

Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge, Burton

Author: Black

[ 336 U.S. Page 794]

 MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The basic question here is whether the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures bars the United States from utilizing certain documentary evidence in this civil antitrust proceeding instituted in the United States District Court of Rhode Island. Subsidiary procedural questions involve the doctrine of res judicata.*fn1 We proceed at once to consideration of the important basic question since for reasons later given we reject the subsidiary res judicata contentions.

[ 336 U.S. Page 795]

     returned based upon the knowledge thus obtained. Subpoenas were then issued calling for production of the original papers. Upon refusal to produce, one of the Silverthornes was imprisoned for contempt.

This Court viewed the whole performance of the unlawful search and seizure of the Silverthorne books and papers as an "outrage," planned or at least ratified by the Government. Under these circumstances it was held that the Government was neither entitled to use the original documents nor any knowledge obtained from the originals, the photostats, or the copies. The rule announced was that evidence or knowledge "gained by the Government's own wrong" is not merely forbidden to be "used before the Court but that it shall not be used at all." Other cases in this Court have applied the same rule.*fn2 It is an extraordinary sanction, judicially imposed, to limit searches and seizures to those conducted in strict compliance with the commands of the Fourth Amendment.

In the case before us, however, United States officers did not go to the appellees' offices and seize their documents. Officers served a court subpoena on appellees calling on them to produce certain designated documents for use in a grand jury investigation. Appellees challenged the subpoena on the ground that it was so broad and sweeping as to constitute an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The District Court at all times has rejected this contention, and appellees do not urge it here. Thus it cannot be thought that the form of the subpoena or the method of its enforcement

[ 336 U.S. Page 797]

     constitutes even a "constructive" search or seizure barred as "unreasonable" by the Fourth Amendment. Oklahoma Press Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 202-208. And up to this point nothing that happened in this case is even remotely analogous to the situation that evoked this Court's condemnation in the Silverthorne case. But the District Court found and appellees here urge that subsequent developments in this case call for application of the Silverthorne rule. Those developments were as follows:

The grand jury before which the documents were produced returned an indictment against appellees and others charging violations of ยงยง 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.*fn3 Shortly after we decided Ballard v. United States, 329 U.S. 187, the District Court on motion of appellees dismissed the indictment on the ground that the court practice of intentionally and systematically excluding women from the grand jury panel rendered the grand jury an illegally constituted body. On the same day the court granted appellees' motion for return of the previously impounded documents. Later the court ordered the Government to return a number of photostats that had been made of the original documents. In an opinion discussing return of the photostats the District Court reaffirmed its belief that the "subpoenas did not violate the Fourth Amendment and the Government was entitled to have the documents produced for presentation to a legal grand jury." The court held, however, that "when the grand jury turned out to be illegally constituted and the indictment was dismissed . . . the subpoenas amounted to unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment . . . ."

In order to implement a congressional policy to have the grand jury a "truly ...


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