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United States v. Nobles

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued April 23, 1975 ; June 23, 1975

No. 74-634

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Certiorari was granted to review a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit holding that a federal trial court may not compel the defense in a criminal trial to reveal the relevant portions of a defense investigator's report for the prosecution's use in cross-examining him.


At trial, defense counsel called an investigator to testify about interviews with eyewitnesses in order to discredit their identification testimony. The trial court excluded the testimony when defense counsel refused to submit the investigator's report to government counsel. The circuit court of appeals held that U.S. Const. amend. V prohibited the disclosure condition imposed by the district court, and that Fed. R. Crim. P. 16 precluded prosecutorial discovery at trial. The court granted certiorari and reversed. The court held that disclosure of the relevant portions of the defense investigator's report did not violate U.S. Const. amend. V because the content of the report was statements of third parties and not defendant's personal communications. Thus, requiring their production would not compel defendant to be a witness against himself. The court also held that Fed. R. Crim. P. 16 did not constrain a district court's power to condition impeachment testimony of the witness on the production of relevant portions of his report, and that the work-product doctrine did not exempt the report from disclosure because its protection was waived by calling the investigator as a witness.


The court reversed the decision of the court of appeals.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Constitutional Law > ... > Fundamental Rights > Procedural Due Process > Self-Incrimination Privilege

Evidence > Privileges > Self-Incrimination Privilege > Scope

Transportation Law > Private Vehicles > Traffic Regulation > One Way Streets

Evidence > Privileges > Self-Incrimination Privilege > General Overview

HN1  Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege

The privilege against compulsory self-incrimination of U.S. Const. amend. V is an intimate and personal one, which protects a private inner sanctum of individual feeling and thought and proscribes state intrusion to extract self-condemnation. The privilege is a personal privilege: it adheres basically to the person, not to information that may incriminate him.


Criminal Law & Procedure > Trials > Jencks Act > Appellate Review & Judicial Discretion

Evidence > Relevance > Preservation of Relevant Evidence > Exclusion & Preservation by Prosecutors

Criminal Law & Procedure > Trials > Jencks Act > General Overview

Criminal Law & Procedure > Trials > Judicial Discretion

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Standards of Review > Harmless & Invited Error > General Overview

HN2  Jencks Act, Appellate Review & Judicial Discretion

Fed. R. Crim. P. 16 only restricts the defendant's right of pretrial discovery in a manner that reconciles that provision with the limitation of the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C.S. § 3500, on the trial court's discretion over evidentiary matters. It does not convert Fed. R. Crim. P. 16 into a general limitation on the trial court's broad discretion as to evidentiary questions at trial.


Civil Procedure > ... > Privileged Communications > Work Product Doctrine > General Overview

Evidence > Privileges > Attorney-Client Privilege

HN3  Privileged Communications, Work Product Doctrine

Although the work-product doctrine most frequently is asserted as a bar to discovery in civil litigation, its role in assuring the proper functioning of the criminal justice system is even more vital.

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422 U.S. 225 ; 95 S. Ct. 2160 ; 45 L. Ed. 2d 141 ; 1975 U.S. LEXIS 80 ; 20 Fed. R. Serv. 2d (Callaghan) 547



Disposition: The court reversed the decision of the court of appeals.