Smith v. Pennsylvania
Decided on Mar. 9, 1964; 376 US 354


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: 6th Amendment, Due Process

B. Legal Question Presented:

Can the federal government quash a subpoena based on claims of confidential material subject to a federal privilege?

II. CASE SUMMARY: A. Background:

"Prior to commencement of petitioner's trial for assault and battery upon state police officers, he served upon the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation a subpoena duces tecum calling for the production of '[s]tatements of all witnesses, diagrams, sketches and photographs taken in connection with' the FBI's investigation of the incident which formed the basis for the criminal prosecution. The FBI had made the investigation in response to a complaint filed by petitioner with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, charging a deprivation of his civil rights by the actions of the police officers whom he allegedly assaulted. An Assistant United States Attorney appeared on the day set for trial and moved to quash the subpoena, claiming that the file contained confidential material subject to a federal privilege [376 U.S. 354, 355] of nondisclosure. The subpoena was quashed by the trial court for that reason and for noncompliance with local rules of practice...

Following petitioner's conviction, the trial court denied his motion for a new trial which was based in part on the failure to issue the requested subpoena, stating that the Federal Government had already indicated that it would not honor such a subpoena. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
"
B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
William T. Coleman, Jr. argued for the petitioner Frank P. Lawley, Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania for the respondent
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Melvin L. Wulf for the American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Philadelphia Branch, et al., as amici curiae, in support of the petitioner. Solicitor General Cox filed a memorandum for the United States
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"In response to an inquiry from this Court, the Solicitor General has indicated that the claim of confidential privilege was concerned solely with the initial broad-based demand for virtually the entire FBI file on the matter and that the Department of Justice was not informed of, and did not refuse to comply with, the subsequent specific requests for statements given by the two witnesses.

We grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and remand the case to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, for reconsideration of petitioner's requests in light of the representations of the Solicitor General."

Certiorari granted and case remanded for reconsideration of petitioner's requests for statements of witnesses.
Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con
Per curiam decision (No individual authorship of majority opinion)
        • Warren, E. Pro
        • Black, H. Pro
        • Douglas, W. Pro
        • Clark, T. Pro
        • Harlan, J. Pro
  • Brennan, W. Pro
  • Stewart, P. Pro
  • White, B. Pro
  • Goldberg, A. Pro
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus, supported the petition for writ of certiorari; the US Supreme Court granted certiorari in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.