317 U.S. 412 (1943), 183, Pendergast v. United States

Docket NºNo. 183
Citation317 U.S. 412, 63 S.Ct. 268, 87 L.Ed. 368
Party NamePendergast v. United States
Case DateJanuary 04, 1943
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 412

317 U.S. 412 (1943)

63 S.Ct. 268, 87 L.Ed. 368

Pendergast

v.

United States

No. 183

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 4, 1943

Argued December 14, 15, 1942

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. Revised Statutes § 1044, providing that

No person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense, not capital, . . . unless the indictment is found, or the information is instituted, within three years next after such offense shall have been committed,

applies to a prosecution for criminal contempt. P. 416.

2. The act of inducing a federal court, through misrepresentations by attorneys, to issue decrees effectuating a corrupt settlement of litigation, including a distribution of impounded funds, if assumed to be "misbehavior" in the "presence" of the court within the meaning of Jud.Code § 268, is a criminal contempt, and an "offense" against the United States within the meaning of R.S. § 1044. P. 416.

3. The time when the three-year limitation of R.S. § 1044 begins to run against a prosecution for a criminal contempt under Jud.Code § 268 is the time when the act of misbehavior in the presence of the court was committed, and, in a case of alleged contempt committed by inducing the court by false representations to order a distribution of impounded funds, effectuating a fraudulent scheme, the offense was complete when the misrepresentations were made,

Page 413

and the three years are counted from that time. The bar of the statute cannot be deferred upon the ground that the offense was a continuing one, and was not complete until the litigation ended or until further acts dehors were committed in the execution of the scheme. P. 419.

128 F.2d 676 reversed.

Certiorari, post, p. 608, to review judgments affirming sentences for contempt. For opinions of the trial court, see 35 F.Supp. 593, 39 F.Supp. 189.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, together with one Street, now deceased, conceived and executed a nefarious scheme in fraud of the federal District Court and in corruption of the administration of justice. The short of it was that petitioners, by fraud and deceit and through misrepresentations by attorneys, induced the court to issue decrees effectuating a corrupt settlement of litigation. It happened this way:

Several insurance companies doing business in Missouri filed with the Superintendent of Insurance an increase in insurance rates which the Superintendent denied. The insurance companies filed over 130 [63 S.Ct. 269] separate injunction suits against the Superintendent and the Attorney General

Page 414

in the federal court to restrain the enforcement of certain statutes of Missouri on the ground of unconstitutionality. A three-judge court was convened which granted motions for interlocutory injunctions on July 2, 1930, whereby the Superintendent and the Attorney General were enjoined, pending final decision, from enforcing the Missouri statutes -- on condition, however, that the insurance companies deposit the amount of increase in rates which was collected with a custodian of the court to await the final outcome of the litigation. In September, 1930, a special master was appointed who held hearings. During this time, the premiums impounded by the court accumulated until, by 1936, they amounted to almost $10,000,000.

The lure of this sizeable amount of other people's money played an important part in the scheme which was hatched.

Street was in charge of the rate litigation for the insurance companies. Pendergast was a "political boss." O'Malley was the then Superintendent of Insurance. McCormack was an insurance agent. Of these, only O'Malley was a party to the litigation. Street agreed to pay Pendergast a "fee" of $750,000 to use his influence over O'Malley and obtain a settlement of the litigation which would be satisfactory to the insurance companies. O'Malley was agreeable. McCormack was the go-between. Street made an initial payment of $100,000 in currency which was divided $55,000 to Pendergast, $22,500 to O'Malley, and $22,500 to McCormack. Thereafter, an agreement was reached and reduced to writing in form of a memorandum. O'Malley would approve, as of June 1, 1930, 80% of the increase in rates which the companies had sought; the parties would appear by their attorneys and join in seeking appropriate orders for distribution of the impounded money; 20% was to go to the policyholders, 50% directly to the insurance

Page 415

companies, and 30% to Street and another as trustees for the insurance companies. The latter were to account to the companies, but not to the court or the Superintendent. The memorandum agreement was not disclosed to the court. But, on June 18, 1935, the insurance companies filed in each case a motion reciting terms of settlement and praying for an order of distribution. On the next day, the insurance companies and O'Malley filed stipulations agreeing that the court should make the order of distribution. Thereafter, on June 22, 1935, October 26, 1935, and January 24, 1936, hearings were held in open court on the motions, and briefs were filed. Counsel, who were wholly innocent and acting in good faith, assured the court of the honesty, fairness, and desirability of the settlement. On February 1, 1936, the court, acting in reliance on the representations and without a hearing on the merits, entered a decree ordering distribution of the impounded funds as prayed in the motions. It also dismissed the bills, reserving jurisdiction, however, for certain purposes.

Petitioners then proceeded further with their corrupt plan. About April, 1936, Street paid $330,000 in currency, of which Pendergast received $250,000, O'Malley $40,000, and McCormack $40,000. In the fall of 1936, Pendergast received another $10,000 in cash from Street. That left $310,000 of the $750,000 "fee" unpaid. And, so far as appears, it was never paid, due to the unraveling of facts which led to an exposure of the entire corrupt scheme. For, about that time, an internal revenue investigation of Street's income tax revenue disclosed that over $400,000 of the funds for which Street was to account as trustee had been paid to unknown persons. This was reported to the Court in February, 1939. A grand jury investigation followed in which the rest of the sordid story was unfolded. See United States v. Pendergast, 28 F.Supp. 601. The Department of Justice caused Pendergast

Page 416

and O'Malley to be indicted for evasion of income taxes on the amounts of money so received. They pleaded guilty, and were fined and imprisoned late in May, 1939. Id. On May 29, 1939, O'Malley's successor filed a motion praying that the decrees of February 1, 1936, be set aside on the basis of those disclosures, and that the insurance companies be ordered to restore the funds distributed to them. The court ordered the insurance companies to make restitution, and they did. At the same time, the court asked the district attorney whether contempt proceedings should be filed. About a year passed, when the court on May 20, 1940, requested the district attorney to institute [63 S.Ct. 270] contempt proceedings against petitioners. An information was filed July 13, 1940. Motions to abate and quash were overruled. 35 F.Supp. 593. Thereafter answers were filed, and a hearing had. Petitioners were adjudged guilty of contempt -- Pendergast and O'Malley being sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and McCormack being sentenced to probation for two years. 39 F.Supp. 189. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 128 F.2d 676. We granted the petition for certiorari because of the importance in the administration of justice of the problems raised. 317 U.S. 608.

Petitioners press several objections to the judgment below. The chief of these are that the offense was not a contempt under § 268 of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 385, as construed by Nye v. United States, 313 U.S. 33, and that, even though it was, the prosecution of it was barred by the three-year statute of limitations contained in § 1044 of the Revised Statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 582. We do not reach the first of these questions, and need not express...

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6 practice notes
  • Time-bars: RICO-criminal and civil-federal and state.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 88 Nbr. 4, April 2013
    • April 1, 2013
    ...transpired, the crime is complete, and from that day the Statute of Limitations begins to run...."); see also Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943) ("Statutes of limitations normally begin to run when the crime is complete."). (85) See, e.g., United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S......
  • Reflections on Reves v. Ernst & Young: its meaning and impact on substantive, accessory, aiding abetting and conspiracy liability under RICO.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 33 Nbr. 5, January 1996
    • January 1, 1996
    ...transpired, the crime is complete, and from that day the Statute of Limitations begins to run ...."); accord Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943). (76.) See, e.g., United States v. Kissell, 218 U.S. 601 (1910)(anti-trust conspiracy). Justice Holmes wrote: [T]he mere continu......
  • Unraveling criminal statutes of limitations.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 Nbr. 1, January 2008
    • January 1, 2008
    ...18 U.S.C. [section] 3282(a) (2006). (35.) Toussie v. United States, 397 U.S. 112, 114-115 (1970) (citing Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943)). (36.) 18 U.S.C. [section] 3290 (2006). That tolling rule has been recognized since Congress first enacted a criminal statute of li......
  • Use of counterfeit immigration documents for employment not a continuing offense.
    • United States
    • Suffolk Transnational Law Review Vol. 39 Nbr. 1, January 2016
    • January 1, 2016
    ...period begins). Generally, a crime is "complete" when each element of the crime occurs. Id. See also Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943) (affirming when crime terminates); United States v. Archer, 671 F.3d 149, 171-72 (2d Cir. 2011) (recognizing crime completed when defend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 books & journal articles
  • Use of counterfeit immigration documents for employment not a continuing offense.
    • United States
    • Suffolk Transnational Law Review Vol. 39 Nbr. 1, January 2016
    • January 1, 2016
    ...begins). Generally, a crime is "complete" when each element of the crime occurs. Id. See also Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943) (affirming when crime terminates); United States v. Archer, 671 F.3d 149, 171-72 (2d Cir. 2011) (recognizing crime completed when def......
  • Reflections on Reves v. Ernst & Young: its meaning and impact on substantive, accessory, aiding abetting and conspiracy liability under RICO.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 33 Nbr. 5, January 1996
    • January 1, 1996
    ...the crime is complete, and from that day the Statute of Limitations begins to run ...."); accord Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943). (76.) See, e.g., United States v. Kissell, 218 U.S. 601 (1910)(anti-trust conspiracy). Justice Holmes wrote: [T]he mere continuation o......
  • Unraveling criminal statutes of limitations.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 Nbr. 1, January 2008
    • January 1, 2008
    ...18 U.S.C. [section] 3282(a) (2006). (35.) Toussie v. United States, 397 U.S. 112, 114-115 (1970) (citing Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943)). (36.) 18 U.S.C. [section] 3290 (2006). That tolling rule has been recognized since Congress first enacted a criminal statute of li......
  • Time-bars: RICO-criminal and civil-federal and state.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 88 Nbr. 4, April 2013
    • April 1, 2013
    ...the crime is complete, and from that day the Statute of Limitations begins to run...."); see also Pendergast v. United States, 317 U.S. 412, 418 (1943) ("Statutes of limitations normally begin to run when the crime is complete."). (85) See, e.g., United States v. Bailey, 444 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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