Chapman v. Maren Elwood College, 14057.

Decision Date25 April 1955
Docket NumberNo. 14057.,14057.
Citation225 F.2d 230
PartiesL. C. CHAPMAN, Manager of the Regional Office of the Veterans Administration, Appellant, v. MAREN ELWOOD COLLEGE, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Warren E. Burger, Asst. Atty. Gen., Paul A. Sweeney, Marcus A. Rowden, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Laughlin E. Waters, U. S. Atty., Clyde C. Downing and Arline Martin, Asst. U. S. Attys., Los Angeles, Cal., for appellant.

Stahlman & Cooper, Blase A. Bonpane, Spencer E. Van Dyke, H. Allen Smith, Tobias G. Klinger, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellee.

Before STEPHENS, FEE and CHAMBERS, Circuit Judges.

JAMES ALGER FEE, Circuit Judge.

This is a proceeding in the United States District Court to enforce an administrative subpoena issued to Maren Elwood College by the Manager of a Regional Office of the Veterans Administration, commanding the production forthwith of five different classes of records of the college covering a period of about eight years.

There was no testimony offered in the trial court. The agency filed affidavits showing the issuance of and failure to obey the administrative subpoena. The college filed affidavits claiming to show the unreasonableness of the action by the agency.

The court held that the subpoena duces tecum issued by the Veterans Administration and served upon the college demanded the production of records beyond the period for which such records may be required to be produced, thereby exceeding the authority of the Veterans Administration, and that therefore the subpoena was void. The court refused enforcement, and the Manager appeals.

It is eminently clear the statute1 gives authority for issuance of subpoena in all matters over which the Veterans Administration has jurisdiction.2 In view of the responsibilities of that agency in the administration of the educational and vocational training program for veterans,3 there is no doubt that, as it has been specifically held, the matters here sought were subject to the jurisdiction of the Administration.4

But the Manager seems to have misconceived the function of a proceeding to enforce the demand for production. Since the matters inquired into were thus clearly within the agency jurisdiction, both here and in the trial court, the issuance of an order compelling production by the college of each and every item listed in the subpoena is treated as if it were a ministerial act to be performed by the Clerk of the District Court. This is a mistake as to a fundamental.

The sole ground for the intervention of the federal courts to assist executive or administrative investigations is that the passing of such an order is a judicial act, with all which that phrase implies. The proceeding must have as its basis a "case" or "controversy" under the Federal Constitution. The agency asserts its subpoena rights. The college denies. "Thus has arisen a dispute involving rights or claims asserted by the respective parties to it." Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson, 154 U.S. 447, 477, 14 S.Ct. 1125, 1133, 38 L.Ed. 1047. Issues made up by the agency and the college as to whether the agency is entitled to the evidence which it seeks and whether or not the refusal to produce the documents demanded is or is not in violation of the duty of the college are so presented that the judicial power is capable of acting on them. The exercise of the judicial function implies consideration and adjudication. The slanders upon administrative investigations might have found some justification were it not that "the propriety of every question in the course of the inquiry being subject to the supervision of the ordinary courts of justice". Cardozo, J., dissenting in Jones v. Securities and Exchange Commission, 298 U.S. 1, 33, 56 S.Ct. 654, 665, 80 L.Ed. 1015. The key question in enforcement of the demand to produce records is whether it is reasonable or arbitrary. A subpoena duces tecum has been placed on par with a search warrant.5 The parallel may not be exact, but, unquestionably, similar safeguards should be maintained against abuse of either. The question of reasonableness is one for consideration and adjudication by the courts. The mere fact that a demand has been made by an administrative agency does not establish the demand as reasonable. Necessarily, a determination of reasonableness cannot be made by formula.6

Here the agency approach was that, if the subpoena were not obeyed, the court must issue the order as of course. First, but little attempt was made by the agency to allege, and no attempt was made to prove, that the demand was reasonable. It must be remembered that a case was in court for trial. If it be assumed that the supposed presumption of administrative regularity prevailed in a judicial proceeding, the allegations of the petition for enforcement must be given effect. There was still a case for the court to try. Second, therefore, if it be assumed that the Veterans Administration had made a showing which was prima facie valid, the college brought forward a great deal of evidence in the form of affidavit, which tended to prove that the demand was entirely unreasonable. The agency did not at any time present contravailing proof. The failure to rebut apparently arose from the theory that there was no case to try, because the court was compelled by law to issue the desired order in any event.

The college, during the period from 1945 to date, has been subject to inspection and audit by the Department of Education of the State of California. During the period from April, 1951, through August 1951, representatives of the General Accounting Office of the United States conducted an audit of the books and records of the college covering a three year period from February 1, 1948, through February 1, 1951. From the date of its first federal contract in October, 1945, and periodically thereafter, numerous training officers of the agency visited the college to maintain close supervision over veteran training. The college was required once a month for several years to submit to the Veterans Administration five forms setting out in detail all aspects of the teaching and training program affecting enrolled veterans. On April 14, 1952, the agency sent out several auditors to commence a "10% audit" of the books and records of the college back to October 16, 1945. This audit continued until at least November, 1952, although there is an inference in the record that it continued until February, 1953.

On March 27, 1953, the agency, through one of its auditors, sought space at the college for his crew of four auditors to make a complete audit of all the books and records for the entire period from October 16, 1945, to that date. The college was advised then, as before mentioned, that, if it would agree to the ten per cent projection demand, the Veterans Administration would be satisfied with a less complete audit.

The college offered to produce all books and records demanded from February 1, 1950, for a period of about three years.

The petition for enforcement goes far to negate the reasonableness of the demand. It is expressly set up:

"The records thus requested were produced and a partial audit thereof made (to the extent of 10%). By November, 1952, it appeared that certain improper billings by the College resulted in an overpayment to it by the Veterans Administration. Several requests thereafter made by the Veterans Administration that the College consent to projection of the audit in order to establish the total overpayment by computation instead of a 100% audit have been ignored by the College. The audit is currently being continued, but is being limited to the period commencing with January, 1950, by reason of the refusal of said College to comply with the terms of the subpoena issued and served on March 31, 1953."

The suggestion of moral obliquity made in the trial court on account of this prelude to the demand thus baldly urged upon a court need not be accepted. The pressure was as compelling as that contained in the ultimatum: "If you don't, you can walk home." The suggestion is not that the agency really needs the facts which might be obtained by a reexamination of the record, but that, if the demand be not met, sufficient expense will be piled up by the re-audit of the books that the one hundred per cent computation might well be the cheaper....

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  • FCC v. Schreiber
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 4, 1964 the Commission, but contends that the District Court abused its discretion and therefore erred. In Chapman v. Maren Elwood College, 9th Cir., 1955, 225 F.2d 230, at Page 231, we "The key question in enforcement of the demand to produce records is whether it is reasonable or arbitrary. * ......
  • F. T. C. v. Texaco, Inc.
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    ...41 L.Ed.2d 72 (1974).30 FPC STAFF REPORT ON NATIONAL GAS RESERVE STUDY (May 1973) at 3, App. VI at 1048a.31 Chapman v. Maren Elwood College, 225 F.2d 230, 234 (9th Cir. 1955); accord, NLRB v. Northern Trust Co., 148 F.2d 24, 29 (7th Cir. 1945).32 Supplemental Brief for Appellant on Rehearin......
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    ...Inc. v. FTC, 286 F.2d 803, 811 (9th Cir. 1960), cert. denied, 365 U.S. 877, 81 S.Ct. 1027, 6 L.Ed.2d 190 (1961); Chapman v. Maren Elwood College, 225 F.2d 230 (9th Cir. 1955); Comet Electronics, Inc. v. United States, 381 F.Supp. 1233, 1242 (W.D.Mo.1974), af- firmed, --- U.S. ---, 95 S.Ct. ......
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    ...subpoena which is not within the bounds of reasonableness. Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 26 S.Ct. 370, 50 L.Ed. 652; Chapman v. Maren Elwood College, 9 Cir., 225 F.2d 230; N. L. R. B. v. Anchor Rome Mills, 5 Cir., 197 F.2d 447, 449-450. There is a delicate balance between the necessity of ob......
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