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Supreme Court of the United States
December 7, 1983, Argued ; February 28, 1984, Decided
[*606] [***556] [**1239] JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the issue whether, and to what extent, the Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination applies to the business records of a sole proprietorship.
Respondent is the owner of several sole proprietorships. In late 1980, a grand jury, during the course of an investigation of corruption in the awarding of county and municipal contracts, served five subpoenas on respondent. The first two demanded the production of the telephone records of several of respondent's companies and all records pertaining to four bank accounts of respondent and his companies. The subpoenas were limited to the period between January 1, 1977, and the dates of the subpoenas. The third subpoena demanded the production of a list of virtually all the business records of one of respondent's companies for the period between [*607] January 1, 1976, and the date of the subpoena. 1 [****6] The fourth subpoena sought production [***557] of a similar list of business records belonging [****5] to another company. 2 The final subpoena demanded production of all bank statements and cancelled checks of two of respondent's companies that had accounts at a bank in the Grand Cayman Islands.
Respondent filed a motion in Federal District Court seeking to quash the subpoenas. The District Court for the District of New Jersey granted his motion except with respect to those documents and records required by law to be kept or disclosed to a public agency. 3 In reaching its decision, the [*608] District Court noted that the Government had conceded that the materials sought in the subpoena were or might [**1240] be incriminating. The court stated that, therefore, "the relevant inquiry is . . . whether the act of producing the documents has communicative aspects which warrant Fifth Amendment protection." In re Grand Jury Empanelled March 19, 1980, 541 F.Supp. 1, 3 (1981) [****7] (emphasis in original). The court found that the act of production would compel respondent to "admit that the records exist, that they are in his possession, and that they are authentic." Ibid. While not ruling out the possibility that the Government could devise a way to ensure that the act of turning over the documents would not incriminate respondent, the court held that the Government had not made such a showing.
[****8] The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. In re Grand Jury Empanelled March 19, 1980, 680 F.2d 327 (1982). It first addressed the question whether the Fifth Amendment ever applies to the records of a sole proprietorship. After noting that an individual may not assert the Fifth Amendment privilege on behalf of a corporation, partnership, or other collective entity under the holding of Bellis v. United States, 417 U.S. 85 (1974), 4 the Court of Appeals reasoned that the owner of a sole proprietorship acts in a personal rather than a representative capacity. As a result, the court held that respondent's claim of the privilege was not foreclosed by [***558] the reasoning of Bellis. 680 F.2d, at 331.
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465 U.S. 605 *; 104 S. Ct. 1237 **; 79 L. Ed. 2d 552 ***; 1984 U.S. LEXIS 169 ****; 52 U.S.L.W. 4296; 57 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 1270; 15 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 1
UNITED STATES v. DOE
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 680 F.2d 327, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
subpoena, documents, records, district court, incriminating, contents, use immunity, papers, producing, business record, testimonial, immunity, taxpayer, grand jury, privileged, authentic, sole proprietorship, demanded, protects
Civil Procedure, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Subpoenas, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Evidence, Privileges, Self-Incrimination Privilege, General Overview, Methods of Discovery, Criminal Law & Procedure, Invocation by Witnesses, Defendant's Rights, Right to Remain Silent, Communicative & Testimonial Information, Search & Seizure, Search Warrants, Appeals, Standards of Review, Immunity, Grand Juries, Evidence Before Grand Jury, Suppression of Evidence