319 U.S. 41 (1943), 687, St. Pierre v. United States

Docket NºNo. 687
Citation319 U.S. 41, 63 S.Ct. 910, 87 L.Ed. 1199
Party NameSt. Pierre v. United States
Case DateMay 03, 1943
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

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319 U.S. 41 (1943)

63 S.Ct. 910, 87 L.Ed. 1199

St. Pierre


United States

No. 687

United States Supreme Court

May 3, 1943

Argued April 15, 1943




1. The sentence which this Court granted certiorari to review having been fully served, and petitioner not having shown that, under either state or federal law, further penalties or disabilities can be imposed on him as a result of the judgment, the cause is moot, and the writ of certiorari is dismissed. P. 42.

2. The moral stigma of a judgment which no longer affects legal rights does not present a case or controversy for appellate review. P. 43.


Certiorari, 318 U.S. 751, to review the affirmance (132 F.2d 837) of a sentence to imprisonment for contempt of court.

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Per curiam opinion.


Petitioner, who it is alleged had in his testimony before a federal grand jury confessed to the commission of the crime of embezzlement, refused to divulge the name of the person whose money he had embezzled. For the refusal, the district court sentenced him to five months' imprisonment for contempt of court, and the circuit court of appeals affirmed the judgment. United States v. St. Pierre, 132 F.2d 837. We granted certiorari, 318 U.S. 751, on a petition which raised important questions with respect to petitioner's constitutional immunity from self-incrimination. In the order allowing the writ, we requested counsel to discuss the question whether the case had become moot.

On the argument, it was conceded that petitioner had fully served his sentence before certiorari was granted. We are of opinion that the case is moot because, after petitioner's service of his sentence and its expiration, there was no longer a subject matter on which the judgment of this Court could operate. A federal court is without power to decide moot questions or to give advisory opinions which cannot affect the rights of the litigants in the case before it. United States v. Alaska S.S. Co., 253 U.S. 113, 115-116, and cases cited; United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische Packet-Fahrt-Actien Gesellschaft, 239 U.S. 466, 475-477. The sentence cannot be enlarged by this Court's judgment, and reversal of the judgment below cannot operate to undo what has been done or restore to petitioner the penalty of the term

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of imprisonment which he has served. Nor has petitioner shown that,...

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