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United States v. Secor

decided: April 4, 1973.


Kaufman, Anderson and Mansfield, Circuit Judges.

Author: Mansfield

MANSFIELD, Circuit Judge:

Upon this appeal from a judgment of contempt for failure to comply with two orders of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York directing appellant, Walter Secor, to comply with a summons issued by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") pursuant to 26 U. S. C. § 7602,*fn1 the sole error claimed by Secor is that the summons directing him to appear at the IRS offices and to turn over certain records violated his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. That issue, however, had been raised earlier in a proceeding instituted in the district court pursuant to 26 U. S. C. §§ 7402(b) and 7604(a)*fn2 to enforce compliance with the IRS summons and had been adjudicated against Secor by a decision and order of the district court from which no appeal had been taken within the time prescribed by law. Accordingly, since Secor is barred by the doctrine of res judicata from raising the issue, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

The history of the government's efforts to interrogate Secor and of the legal proceedings which followed is undisputed. Pursuant to § 7602 the IRS on June 9, 1971, served upon Secor a summons directing him to appear at its offices on June 30, 1971, to testify regarding his tax liability for the year ended December 31, 1968, and to bring with him specified books and records. The Revenue Agent in charge of the matter, Charles Faletty, was informed by Secor's attorney that he had advised Secor, who failed to appear, to invoke his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination and not to answer any questions.

On December 13, 1971, the district court, acting upon a petition of the IRS, issued to Secor an Order to Show Cause why he should not be compelled to comply with the IRS summons served upon him in June. On December 30, 1971, Secor appeared in court and furnished an affidavit of the same date prepared by his counsel, which reiterated his refusal to testify in response to the summons, stating that he was contesting IRS assessments against him for the years 1964-1967, that a tax deficiency had been assessed against him for the year 1968 after he had refused to answer questions with respect to earlier orders, and that he had been convicted in 1966 for failure to register and pay the federal wagering tax. The conviction was set aside pursuant to the subsequent decision in Marchetti v. United States, 390 U.S. 39, 19 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 697 (1968), which held unconstitutional the wagering tax as violative of the Fifth Amendment. Secor's affidavit requested that he be permitted the right to invoke his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, that the order to show cause be dismissed, and that the summons issued by the IRS be cancelled.

With the issue thus joined, Judge Pierce in a memorandum opinion entered on February 10, 1972, denied Secor's application, stating "The Court is not aware that anyone has suggested criminal prosecution of respondent based on any alleged gambling activities. . . . If such a situation eventuates, respondent may then urge that his constitutional claims be measured against the Marchetti case." Secor was ordered by the court "to obey the mandate contained in the Internal Revenue Service summons which had been served upon him."

Secor neither obeyed the court's order nor took an appeal therefrom. On June 27, 1972, the court, upon the written application of the United States Attorney, a copy of which was served on Secor's attorney, issued a second order directing Secor to comply with the IRS summons by appearing at the IRS offices, this time on July 10, 1972, and by producing the documents and records referred to in the summons. Again Secor neither obeyed the court's order nor took an appeal.

On August 22, 1972, the government moved pursuant to 26 U. S. C. § 7604(b)*fn3 for an order holding Secor in contempt because of his failure to obey the court's two earlier orders. An evidentiary hearing was held in which the only witness called by Secor was Revenue Agent Faletty; Secor also offered a limited amount of documentary evidence. Secor's position was that he was not guilty of contempt because he had been justified in refusing to obey the summons on the ground that interrogation pursuant to it would violate his Fifth Amendment rights.

By decision dated September 13, 1972, Judge Pierce adjudged Secor to be in contempt for his refusal to obey the orders of the court. Imposition of sentence was suspended and Secor was fined $25 per day thenceforth for each day upon which he should fail to comply with the IRS summons. Pending appeal the sentence was stayed. On September 18, 1972, Secor filed a notice of appeal from the district court's judgment holding him in contempt.

Upon this appeal Secor asks us to reverse the judgment of contempt on the ground that interrogation of him pursuant to the IRS summons would violate his Fifth Amendment rights. However, we must first determine whether we are precluded from determination of that issue, interesting though it may be, by Secor's failure to take a timely appeal from the district court's earlier orders directing him to comply with the IRS summons. The government urges that when his time to appeal from the February 10, 1972 order expired the district court's decision in this proceeding became res judicata as to the sole issue which he now seeks to raise and that that order cannot now be collaterally attacked. We agree.

The final and appealable nature of a district court's order enforcing an IRS summons in a proceeding instituted pursuant to 26 U. S. C. §§ 7402(b) and 7604(a) was firmly established by the Supreme Court in Reisman v. Caplin, 375 U.S. 440, 11 L. Ed. 2d 459, 84 S. Ct. 508 (1964). There the Court, affirming the denial of declaratory and injunctive relief sought by attorneys for the taxpayers against an IRS summons issued under § 7602, held that the taxpayers' constitutional rights were fully protected for the reason that in order to enforce the IRS summons the government would be required to institute an adversary proceeding in the district court (as it did here) for an order enforcing the summons, in which the taxpayer could assert and litigate his constitutional rights and appeal as a matter of right from an adverse decision and enforcement order.

"If the Secretary or his delegate wishes to enforce the summons, he must proceed under § 7402(b), which grants the District Courts of the United States jurisdiction 'by appropriate process to compel such attendance, testimony, or production of books, papers, or other data.'

"Any enforcement action under this section would be an adversary proceeding affording a judicial determination of the challenges to the summons and giving complete protection to the witness.

"Furthermore, we hold that in any of these procedures before either the district judge or United States Commissioner, the witness may challenge the summons on any appropriate ground. This would include, as the circuits have held, the defenses that the material is sought for the improper purpose of obtaining evidence for use in a criminal prosecution, Boren v. Tucker, 239 F.2d 767, 772-773, as well as that it is protected by the attorney-client privilege, Sale v. United States, 228 F.2d 682. . . . Finally, we hold that such orders are appealable. See O'Connor v. O'Connell, 253 F.2d 365 (C. A. 1st Cir.); In re Albert Lindley Lee Memorial Hospital [209 F.2d 122 (1953)]; Falsone v. United States, [205 F.2d 734 (1953)]; Bouschor v. United States, 316 F.2d 451 (C.A. 8th Cir.); Martin v. Chandis Securities Co., 128 F.2d 731 (C.A. 9th Cir.); D. I. Operating Co. v. United States, 321 ...

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