Clark v. United States, 531

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCARDOZO
Citation77 L.Ed. 993,53 S.Ct. 465,289 U.S. 1
Docket NumberNo. 531,531
Decision Date13 March 1933

Mr. Sigurd Ueland, of Minneapolis, Minn., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 2-3 intentionally omitted] The Attorney General and Mr. Whitney North Seymour, of Washington, D.C., for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from Pages 4-5 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice CARDOZO delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner, Genevieve A. Clark, has been adjudged guilty of a criminal contempt, in that with intent to obstruct justice she gave answers knowingly misleading and others knowingly false in response to questions affecting her qualifications as a juror (D.C.) 1 F.Supp. 747.

The conviction by the District Court was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; the proceeding being remanded, however, to correct an error in the sentence. 61 F.(2d) 695. A writ of certiorari brings the case here. 287 U.S. 595, 53 S.Ct. 314, 77 L.Ed. —-.

In September, 1931, there came on for trial in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota an indictment which had been returned against William B. Foshay and others charging them with the use of the mails in furtherance of a scheme to defraud. The petitioner was one of the panel of jurors summoned to attend. She did not know when the summons came to her for what case she had been called, and telephoned a sister, Mrs. Brown, that she would like to be excused. She was advised by her sister, who had made inquiry of the clerk of the court, that excuses, if there were any, would have to be presented to the judge. At the same time she was informed that the trial for which she had been summoned was the Foshay trial, and that she would probably not be accepted as a juror since she had been employed by the Foshay Company, a corporation with which the indicted men had been connected as officers.

On the day appointed for the trial, the petitioner, in company with her husband, reported at the courtroom. The District Judge examined the members of the panel as to their qualifications for service. While the examination was going on, the petitioner stated to several women on the panel that she wished to serve on the jury, that for this she had a special reason, and that she was afraid her former employment by the Foshay Company would disqualify her; that she had worked for the company as a stenographer and typist for about two weeks in the summer of 1929, but did not know or come in contact with any of the defendants personally.

Her service as stenographer and typist was not the only tie of friendliness that linked her to the ,.foshay firm. There were other contacts or relations that are not without significance, though less direct and personal. Until her marriage in 1922, she had been employed with the title of assistant cashier in a bank at St. Paul, of which Mr. Clark was then the president. Foshay in those years was a customer of the bank as depositor and borrower. Mr. Clark resigned as president in 1925, but his business relations with Foshay continued in the years that followed. Letters that passed between them are printed in the record. The tone is cordial and almost intimate. True, there is nothing to show that the friendly relations had spread to the petitioner. She denies that she had any acquaintance with Foshay or his associates, and the District Court by its findings has accepted her denial. It is next to impossible, however, that her husband, who was with her in the courtroom, had refrained from telling her of his own friendship for one of the prisoners at the bar.

The petitioner, upon being called to the jury box, was questioned under oath by the judge presiding at the trial. She was asked whether she had ever been in any business of any kind. She answered, 'I have been a stenographer before my marriage, yes.' She was asked in what kind of business she had worked. She answered, 'Well, I did some banking and some real estate and insurance, and I was with an automobile concern, with a Nash agency.' Finally she was asked whether she felt that her mind was free from bias, and whether if accepted as a juror she would be able and willing to base her verdict on the evidence and the law as given to her by the court. To those inquiries she answered that her mind was clear of bias, and that the law and the evidence would govern her in arriving at a verdict.

The petitioner after thus testifying became a member of the jury, which was thereupon complete. The trial which followed lasted eight weeks. Two officers, a man and a woman, were in charge of the jury from the beginning to the end. During the first week of the trial, the petitioner made the remark to several of her fellow jurors that she regarded Mr. Foshay as a victim of circumstances, that he had gone to New York in the fall of 1929 to borrow $18,000,000, but that, because of the stock market crash, had come back without a dollar. When asked by a juror where she had procured that information, which was not supported by the evidence, she said that it was from a newspaper which she had read before the trial. Later on she gave expression to dissatisfaction with the government because of the way the soldiers were treated after the war.

During the deliberations of the jury, after the case was finally submitted, she announced that since the prosecuting attorney had been unable to convince her of the guilt of the accused, the other jurors could hardly be expected to do so. At times she placed her hands over her ears when other jurors tried to reason with her, and argument became useless because she was unwilling to reply. She said of a witness for the government that he had given perjured evidence in the south in an attempt to convict an innocent man. This information had come to her in the course of a conversation with her husband who had seen her at her hotel, in the presence of a bailiff, while the trial was under way. After being kept together for a week, the jury was discharged because unable to agree. The votes of eleven were for conviction. The single vote for acquittal was cast by the petitioner.

On November 4, 1931, the government filed an information in support of a rule to show cause why the petitioner should not be punished for a criminal contempt. The information charges that her answers upon the voir dire examination were willfully and corruptly false, and that the effect of her misconduct had been to hinder and obstruct the trial. In response to the rule to show cause, the defendant filed an answer denying the misconduct, and alleging that her vote for acquittal had been dictated by her conscience. There was a full and patient hearing by a District Court of two judges. The court found the facts as they have been stated in this opinion. It drew from them the conclusion that the juror had obstructed the administration of justice, when examined on her voir dire, by 'deliberately and intentionally' concealing the fact that she had been employed during the summer of 1929 by the Foshay Company. It drew the conclusion also that she had obstructed the administration of justice by stating falsely that she was free from bias and that her verdict would be based only upon the evidence as introduced, and the law as given by the court. For the contempt thus adjudged there was a sentence of imprisonment and fine.

1. Concealment or misstatement by a juror upon a voir dire examination is punishable as a contempt if its tendency and design are to obstruct the processes of justice.

There was concealment by the petitioner, and that willful and deliberate. She had been asked to state the kinds of work that she had been doing in other years. She counted off a few, and checked herself at the very point where the count, if completed, would be likely to bar her from the box. There is no room for the excuse of oversight or negligence. She had been warned that disclosure would lead to challenge and rejection. With her mind full of the warning she told the part truth that was useless, and held back the other part that had significance and value. Whether this was perjury or false swearing, there is no occasion to inquire. It was a deliberate endeavor to thwart the process of inquiry, and to turn a trial into a futile form.

Added to concealment there was positive misstatement. The petitioner stated to the court that her mind was free from bias. The evidence is persuasive that it was hostile to the government. Bias is to be gathered from the disingenuous concealment which kept her in the box. She was intruding into a relation for which she believed herself ineligible, and intruding with a motive. The only plausible explanation is a preconceived endeavor to uphold the cause of the defendants and save them from their doom. Bias, thus revealed at the beginning, is confirmed by everything that followed. While the trial was still in progress, she argued with her fellow jurors that Foshay was a hapless victim of circumstances too strong for him, and went outside the evidence, quoting statements in a newspaper to win them to her view. After the trial was over and deliberations had begun, she waived aside all argument and closed her ears to the debate. She had closed her mind to it before.

'An obstruction to the performance of judicial duty resulting from an act done in the presence of the court is * * * the characteristic upon which the power to punish for contempt must rest.' White, C.J., in Ex parte Hudgings, 249 U.S. 378, 383, 39 S.Ct. 337, 339, 63 L.Ed. 656, 11 A.L.R. 333. The petitioner is not condemned for concealment, though concealment has been proved. She is not condemned for false swearing, though false swearing has been proved. She is condemned for that she made use of false swearing and concealment as the means whereby to accomplish her acceptance as a juror, and under cover of that relation to obstruct the course of justice. There is a distinction not...

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