Law School Case Brief
Brogan v. United States - 522 U.S. 398, 118 S. Ct. 805 (1998)
Neither the text nor the spirit of the Fifth Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. V, confers a privilege to lie. Proper invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination allows a witness to remain silent, but not to swear falsely.
Petitioner James Brogan, a labor union officer, accepted cash payments from a company whose employees were represented by the union. When federal investigatory agents, who were visiting Brogan at his home, asked whether he had received any cash or gifts from the company when he was a union officer, he replied "no." Subsequently, Brogan was indicted for accepting unlawful cash payments from an employer, in violation of federal labor law, and making a false statement within the jurisdiction of a federal agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1001. Brogan, who was tried along with several codefendants in federal district court, was found guilty. Brogan appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed Brogan's conviction. The court rejected Brogan's claim that his false statements fell within the so-called "exculpatory no" doctrine, a defense to a § 1001 charge recognized in many federal appellate courts, and thus his conviction § 1001 had to be reversed. Brogan was granted a writ of certiorari.
Did the Fifth Amendment protect the right of those being questioned by law enforcement officials to deny wrongdoing falsely?
The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the appellate court's judgment. The Court ruled under the plain language of § 1001 as it read at the time that Brogan falsely replied "no" to the government investigators' question, there was "no exculpatory no" exception, for a false statement that consisted of the mere denial of wrongdoing, to criminal liability under § 1001 for making a false statement, where the speaker, such as Brogan, did not contest that his utterance was false or that it was made knowingly and willfully. The Court observed that neither the text nor the spirit of the Fifth Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. V, conferred a privilege to lie. Proper invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination allowed a witness to remain silent, but not to swear falsely.
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