371 U.S. 392 (1963), 57, Cleary v. Bolger

Docket Nº:No. 57
Citation:371 U.S. 392, 83 S.Ct. 385, 9 L.Ed.2d 390
Party Name:Cleary v. Bolger
Case Date:January 14, 1963
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 392

371 U.S. 392 (1963)

83 S.Ct. 385, 9 L.Ed.2d 390




No. 57

United States Supreme Court

January 14, 1963

Argued November 14-15, 1962




While a state criminal prosecution and a state administrative proceeding for revocation of his license were pending against respondent, he brought this suit in a Federal District Court to enjoin a state officer and certain federal officers from testifying in either proceeding about incriminating statements elicited from respondent while he was being illegally detained and interrogated by the federal officers. The state officer had been present during part of the interrogation, but had not participated therein. Finding that the incriminating statements had been procured by the federal officers in violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(a), the Court granted the injunction against them and the state officer. Only the state officer sought review in this Court.

Held: the injunction against the state officer was improvidently granted. Stefanelli v. Minard, 342 U.S. 117, followed. Rea v. United States, 350 U.S. 214, distinguished. Pp. 392-401.

293 F.2d 368 reversed.

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case draws in question the propriety of the issuance of a federal injunction restraining petitioner, a state officer, from giving evidence in a pending [83 S.Ct. 386] state criminal prosecution and a state administrative proceeding.

The facts, as found by the two lower courts, are as follows. About 8:30 one Saturday morning in September,

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1959, federal Customs officers observed respondent, a hiring agent and longshoreman licensed by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, enter a deserted pier, carry out a cardboard carton, and place it in a car parked at the pier entrance. The officers, who were concerned about the recent frequency of thefts, particularly of liquor, in the New York waterfront area, followed respondent's car for a short distance, and then ordered him to stop. A search of the automobile revealed that the cardboard carton contained only empty soda bottles, but that the glove compartment contained a number of spark plugs and windshield wipers, some of which were stamped "Made in England." Respondent was asked whether he had obtained any liquor from the piers, and he admitted that he had six or eight bottles at home which he had purchased from members of ships' crews who, in turn, he said, had bought them from ships' stores.

The agents then took respondent into custody; he was brought to the Customs office, denied permission to use the telephone, and questioned until shortly before 11 a.m. During this period, he signed a document consenting to a search of his home by the Customs officers, who had told him that the consent form was unnecessary, since they already had enough information to warrant a search, but that he might as well sign it to save them trouble. He had at first refused to sign such a consent without consulting a lawyer. The agents then drove respondent to his home in New Jersey, and, without a search warrant, gave it a thorough search, which uncovered some 75 bottles of liquor, a Stenorette tape recording machine made in West Germany, and various other items of apparent foreign origin, such as perfumes, linens, costume jewelry, etc. These articles, thought to have been illegally acquired, were brought back to Customs headquarters in New York, where, starting about 4 p.m., respondent was again questioned.

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By this time, the Waterfront Commission, a bi-state agency of New York and New Jersey1 which worked in close cooperation with the Customs Service in matters of law enforcement on the waterfront, had been informed of respondent's arrest, and two Commission detectives were present when the interrogation resumed. Petitioner Cleary was one of these detectives. After respondent had revealed that he maintained a tool room in the basement of an apartment house in New York, petitioner and a Customs officer accompanied respondent to this tool room, but nothing suspicious was discovered, and they returned to Customs headquarters at 5:45 p.m.

After he had been told that he did not have to make a statement, respondent was sworn and interrogated by Customs officers in the presence of a Customs Service reporter, who recorded the questions and answers verbatim. Petitioner was present, and could have participated in the questioning, though he did not do so.2 Respondent admitted that, with the exception of a few items that he had purchased from crew members, most of the articles seized at his home had been taken by him from piers where he worked. He also said that he had taken the Stenorette tape recorder from a lighter moored at one of the piers. At 7:30 p.m., respondent was released.

No charges were lodged against respondent by the federal authorities. But, a month later, he was arrested [83 S.Ct. 387] by the New York City police on a charge of grand larceny for the theft of the Stenorette tape recorder, and, shortly thereafter, the Waterfront Commission temporarily suspended his licenses as hiring agent and longshoreman. The criminal charge was subsequently reduced to petit

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larceny and scheduled for trial in the Court of Special Sessions of New York City. A hearing looking to the revocation of respondent's licenses was deferred by the Waterfront Commission pending the outcome of the criminal case.

After the petit larceny charge had been set for trial, respondent instituted the present action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking to enjoin the federal Customs officers and petitioner from using in evidence any of the seized property or his incriminating statement, and from testifying with respect thereto, in the state criminal trial or Waterfront Commission proceeding. He also sought return of the seized property.3 The basis for the action was the claim that the seized property and the incriminating statement were the products of illegal conduct on the part of the federal officers.

The District Court granted such relief, limited however, to the property seized at respondent's home, to the incriminatory statement made following his arrest, and to testimony respecting these matters.4 It held that the search and seizure at respondent's home violated Rule 41(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure5 in that it had

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been made without a search warrant, and that his incriminating statement had been procured in violation of Rule 5(a) of those Rules,6 in that respondent had not been taken before a United States Commissioner within a reasonable time after his arrest, and was also "the result . . . of the illegal search and seizure." In consequence of these illegalities, an injunction against the federal officers was thought to follow. An injunction against petitioner was deemed necessary to make the injunction against the federal officials effective. 189 F.Supp. 237. The Court of Appeals affirmed by a divided vote. 293 F.2d 368. Since the use of federal equity power in the premises presented important questions touching upon federal-state relationships in the realm of state criminal prosecutions, we brought the case here. 368 U.S. 984.

Accepting for present purposes the holdings of the two lower courts with respect to the conduct and enjoinability [83 S.Ct. 388] of the federal officers, we nevertheless conclude that the injunction against this petitioner was improvidently issued.7

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Courts of equity traditionally have refused, except in rare instances, to enjoin criminal prosecutions. This principle "is impressively reinforced when not merely the relations between coordinate courts, but between coordinate political authorities, are in issue." Stefanelli v. Minard, 342 U.S. 117, 120. It has been manifested in numerous decisions of this Court involving a State's enforcement of its criminal law. E.g., Pugach v. Dollinger, 365 U.S. 458; Douglas v. City of Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157; Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387; Beal v. Missouri Pac. R. Co., 312 U.S. 45. The considerations that have prompted denial of federal injunctive relief affecting state prosecutions were epitomized in the Stefanelli case, in which this Court refused to sanction an injunction against state officials to prevent them from using in a state criminal trial evidence seized by state police in alleged violation of the Fourteenth Amendment:

[W]e would expose every State criminal prosecution to insupportable disruption. Every question of procedural due process of law -- with its far-flung and undefined range -- would invite a flanking movement against the system of State courts by resort to the federal forum, with review, if need be, to this Court, to determine the issue. Asserted unconstitutionality in the impaneling and selection of the grand and petit juries, in the failure to appoint counsel, in the admission of a confession, in the creation of an unfair trial atmosphere, in the misconduct of the trial court -- all would provide ready opportunities, which conscientious counsel might be bound to employ, to subvert the orderly, effective prosecution of local crime in local courts. To suggest these difficulties is to recognize their solution.

342 U.S. at 123-124.

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The two courts below recognized the validity of these considerations, but thought that injunctive relief was nonetheless required by Rea v. United States, 350 U.S. 214. In that case, the accused had been indicted in a federal court, and had moved for an order under Rule 41(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure suppressing the use in evidence of certain narcotics seized under a...

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