416 U.S. 505 (1974), 72-1057, United States v. Giordano

Docket Nº:No. 72-1057
Citation:416 U.S. 505, 94 S.Ct. 1820, 40 L.Ed.2d 341
Party Name:United States v. Giordano
Case Date:May 13, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 505

416 U.S. 505 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 1820, 40 L.Ed.2d 341

United States

v.

Giordano

No. 72-1057

United States Supreme Court

May 13, 1974

Argued January 8, 1974

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 provides in 18 U.S.C. § 2516(1) that

the Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General specially designated by the Attorney General, may authorize an application to a Federal judge . . . for . . . an order authorizing or approving the interception of wire or oral communications

by federal investigative agencies seeking evidence of certain designated offenses; and further provides that the contents of intercepted communications, or evidence derived therefrom, may not be received in evidence at a trial if the disclosure of the information would violate Title III, 18 U.S.C. § 2515, and may be suppressed on [94 S.Ct. 1822] the ground, inter alia, that the communication was "unlawfully intercepted," 18 U.S.C. § 2518(10)(a)(i). In this case, an application purportedly authorized by a specially designated Assistant Attorney General for an order permitting the wiretap of the telephone of respondent Giordano, a narcotics offense suspect, was submitted to the Chief Judge of the District Court, who then issued an interception order and later an extension order based on a similar application, but also including information obtained from the previously authorized interception and extending the authority to conversations of additional named individuals calling to or from Giordano's telephone. The interception was terminated when Giordano and the other respondents were arrested and charged with narcotics violations. During suppression hearings, it developed that the wiretap applications had not, in fact, been authorized by a specially designated Assistant Attorney General, but that the initial application was authorized by the Attorney General's Executive Assistant and the extension application had been approved by the Attorney General himself. The District Court sustained the motions to suppress on the ground that the Justice Department officer approving each application had been misidentified in the applications and intercept orders. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but on the ground that the initial authorization violated § 2516(1), thereby requiring suppression of the wiretap

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and derivative evidence under §§ 2515 and 2518(10)(a)(i), inter alia.

Held:

1. Congress did not intend the power to authorize wiretap applications to be exercised by any individuals other than the Attorney General or an Assistant Attorney General specially designated by him. Pp. 512-523.

(a) Notwithstanding 28 U.S.C. § 510, which authorizes the Attorney General to delegate any of his functions to any other officer, employee, or agency of the Justice Department, § 2516(1), fairly read, was intended to limit the power to authorize wiretap applications to the Attorney General himself and to any Assistant Attorney General he might designate. Pp. 512-514.

(b) This interpretation of § 2516(1) is strongly supported by the purpose of the Act effectively to prohibit all interceptions of oral and wire communications except those specifically provided for, and by its legislative history. Pp. 514-523.

2. Primary or derivative evidence secured by wire interceptions pursuant to a court order issued in response to an application which was, in fact, not authorized by the Attorney General or a specially designated Assistant Attorney General must be suppressed under § 2515 upon a motion properly made under § 2518(10)(a), and hence the evidence obtained from the interceptions pursuant to the initial court order was properly suppressed. Pp. 524-529.

(a) Under § 2518(10)(a)(i) the words "unlawfully intercepted" are not limited to constitutional violations, but the statute was intended to require suppression where there is a failure to satisfy any of those statutory requirements that directly and substantially implement the congressional intention to limit the use of intercept procedures to those situations clearly calling for the employment of this extraordinary investigative device. Pp. 524-528.

(b) Since Congress intended to condition the use of intercept procedures upon the judgment of a senior Justice Department official that the situation is one of those warranting their use, thus precluding resort to wiretapping in various situations where investigative personnel would otherwise seek intercept authority from the court and the court would very likely authorize its use, it is evident that the provision for pre-application approval was intended to play a central role in the statutory scheme and that suppression must follow when it is shown that this statutory requirement has been ignored. Pp. 528-529.

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[94 S.Ct. 1823] 3. Communications intercepted pursuant to the extension order were inadmissible, since they were evidence derived from the communications invalidly intercepted pursuant to the initial order. Pp. 529-533.

469 F.2d 522, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in Parts I, II, and III of which all Members joined, and in Part IV of which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 580. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in Parts I, II, and III of the Court's opinion and dissenting from Part IV, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 548.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 82 Stat. 211-225, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2520, prescribes the procedure for securing judicial authority to intercept wire communications in the investigation of specified serious offenses. The Court must here determine whether the Government sufficiently complied with the required application procedures in this case and whether, if not, evidence obtained as a result of such surveillance, under a court order based on the applications, is admissible at the criminal trial of those whose conversations were overheard. In particular, we must decide whether the provision of 18 U.S.C.

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§ 2516(1)1 conferring power on that "Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General specially designated by the Attorney General" to "authorize an application to a Federal judge . . . for . . . an order authorizing or approving the interception of wire or oral communications" by federal investigative agencies seeking evidence of certain designated offenses permits the Attorney General's Executive Assistant to validly authorize a wiretap application to be made. We conclude that Congress did not intend the power to authorize wiretap applications to be exercised by any individuals other than the Attorney General or an Assistant Attorney General specially designated by him, and that primary or derivative evidence secured by wire interceptions pursuant to a court order issued in response to an application which was, in fact, not authorized by one of the statutorily designated officials must be suppressed under 18 U.S.C. § 2515 upon a motion properly made under 18 U.S.C. § 2518(10)(a). Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

I

In the course of an initial investigation of suspected narcotics dealings on the part of respondent Giordano, it developed that Giordano himself sold narcotics to an undercover agent on October 5, 1970, and also told an informant to call a specified number when interested in transacting narcotics business. Based on this and other information, Francis Brocato, an Assistant United States Attorney, on October 16, 1970, submitted an application to the Chief Judge of the District of Maryland for an order permitting interception of the communications of Giordano, and of others as yet unknown, to or from Giordano's telephone. The application recited that

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Assistant Attorney General Will Wilson had been specially designated by the Attorney General to authorize the application. Attached to the application was a letter from Will Wilson to Brocato which stated that Wilson had reviewed Brocato's request for authorization and had made the necessary probable cause determinations, and which then purported to authorize Brocato to proceed with the application to the court. Also attached were various affidavits of law enforcement officers stating the reasons and justification for the proposed interception. Upon reviewing the application, the Chief Judge issued an order on the same day authorizing the interception

pursuant to application authorized by the Assistant Attorney General . . . Will Wilson, who has been specially [94 S.Ct. 1824] designated in this proceeding by the Attorney General . . . to exercise the powers conferred on him by [18 U.S.C. § 2516].

On November 6, the same judge extended the intercept authority based on an application similar in form to the original, but also including information obtained from the interception already authorized and carried out and extending the authority to conversations of additional named individuals calling from or to Giordano's telephone. The interception was terminated on November 18, when Giordano and the other respondents were arrested and charged with violations of the narcotics laws.

Suppression hearings followed pretrial notification by the Government, see § 2518(9), that it intended to use in evidence the results of the court-authorized interceptions of communications on Giordano's telephone. It developed at the hearings that the applications for interception authority presented to the...

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