Joyce v. United States, 12898.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation153 F.2d 364
Docket NumberNo. 12898.,12898.
Decision Date14 February 1946

Charles G. Bangert, of Fargo, N. D., for appellant.

P. W. Lanier, U. S. Atty., of Fargo, N. D., for appellee.

Before GARDNER, WOODROUGH, and THOMAS, Circuit Judges.

THOMAS, Circuit Judge.

C. E. Joyce, J. E. Pfeifer, Odin Stray, Richard R. Kitts, C. A. Waldron and John A. Zuger were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of § 88, 18 U.S.C.A.1

At the conclusion of the trial the court dismissed the charge against Waldron and Zuger, and the jury acquitted Stray and Kitts and convicted Joyce and Pfeifer, the later of whom has since died. Joyce appeals.

The indictment charges that the defendants did unlawfully "conspire, confederate and agree together to defraud the United States of America,

"1 by corruptly administering and procuring the corrupt administration of the Frazier Lemke Act of June 22, 1938, as amended March 4, 1940, 11 U.S.C.A. §§ 201 to 203, inclusive, being an amendment to the National Bankruptcy Act of 1898;

"2 by corruptly influencing, obstructing, impeding. * * * the due administration of justice in matters pending before certain bankruptcy courts of the United States for the District of North Dakota; and

"3 by defrauding the United States of and concerning its right to have the lawful functions of its bankruptcy courts exercised and performed free from unlawful impairment and obstruction, and * * * free from corruption, improper influence, dishonesty or fraud, in the following manner. * * *"

Then follows a lengthy statement of the alleged objects, motives, purposes and acts, including 13 overt acts, of the conspirators. This part of the indictment need not be set out at length since it is no part of the charge and serves only to advise the defendants of the scope of the government's evidence and to limit the inquiry at the trial. Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 66, 62 S.Ct. 457, 86 L.Ed. 680. The form of the indictment and the situation prevailing in North Dakota in 1941 and 1942 are in general the same as described in the opinion of this court in Braatelien v. United States, 8 Cir., 147 F.2d 888.

In brief outline the indictment recites that the object of the conspirators was financial gain for themselves. The plan contemplated that they would induce financially distressed farmers in North Dakota, irrespective of whether they were insolvent, to file petitions in bankruptcy under the Frazier Lemke Act, by representing to the farmers that by so doing their debts would be wiped out or reduced; that the conspirators would control the appointment of appraisers and their property would be appraised for less than its fair market value, and that it could be bought back for less than it was worth; that they would corruptly influence the conciliation commissioners to sustain such appraisals; and that they would advise and assist the farmers to prefer creditors, to omit property from their schedules, and to transfer property to their relatives in anticipation of bankruptcy. It is charged that the plan of the conspirators was consummated, resulting in many instances in the corrupt administration of the Act, in that the bankruptcy court was, through the above described chicanery of the conspirators, used as an instrumentality to defraud the creditors of the debtor farmers.

It is further alleged that the defendants Waldron and Zuger were qualified conciliation commissioners for Ward and Burleigh Counties, North Dakota, respectively, to whose courts many of the farmer-debtor petitions were referred; that defendants Joyce and Pfeifer were solicitors who actively directed the operation of the scheme; and that defendants Stray and Kitts were appraisers appointed by Waldron and Zuger at the instance of Joyce and Pfeifer in many cases to appraise the debtor's property.

Since Joyce and Pfeifer alone were convicted we need review the evidence only in reference to their activities as conspirators. In considering the sufficiency of the proof as to them it is not our province to weigh the evidence or to determine the credibility of witnesses. "We must take that view of the evidence most favorable to the government and sustain the verdict of the jury if there be substantial evidence to support it." United States v. Manton, 2 Cir., 107 F.2d 834, 839. We must remember, also, that the conspiracy may be established by circumstantial evidence and that the offense was complete when the agreement was made. United States v. Manton, supra; Braatelien v. United States, supra.

The evidence would warrant a finding, and the jury presumably found, that Joyce and Pfeifer, acting in concert and cooperating, persuaded financially distressed farmers to file petitions under the Act; aided, assisted and advised them in preparing their petitions and schedules from which they omitted property that should have been scheduled; advised and induced many of them to pay local creditors before filing their petitions and to transfer property to relatives; employed attorneys for them; assisted and procured appraisals of their property for less than its fair market value; and collected and shared fees for their services ranging from $50 to $400 from each farmer. These facts are sufficient to support the verdict unless Joyce's contentions urged in this court are meritorious. He contends

1. That the crux of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment is an unlawful agreement between the conciliation commissioners Waldron and Zuger on the one hand and the solicitors Joyce and Pfeifer on the other; that the evidence does not support the verdict because (a) Waldron and Zuger having been acquitted the agreement was not established and (b) that since Joyce and Pfeifer were not officers of the court charged with the administration of the Act they could not be guilty of corruptly administering it or of procuring its corrupt administration; and

2. That the court erred in instructing the jury.

The first of these contentions is predicated upon the fallacious assumption that the conciliation commissioners as officers of the bankruptcy court are necessary parties to a conspiracy to defraud the United States by corruptly administering or procuring the corrupt administration of the Act. Neither the indictment nor the statute must be so construed.

We turn first to the law. The Supreme Court has interpreted and applied the statute in Haas v. Henkel, 216 U.S. 462, 479, 30 S.Ct. 249, 54 L.Ed. 569, 17 Ann.Cas. 1112; United States v. Foster, 233 U.S. 515, 526, 34 S.Ct. 666, 58 L.Ed. 1074; United States v. Barnow, 239 U.S. 74, 79 36 S.Ct. 19, 60 L.Ed. 155; and Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182, 188, 44 S.Ct. 511, 68 L.Ed. 968. In Haas v. Henkel, supra 216 U.S. 462, 30 S.Ct. 254, the Court said, "The statute is broad enough in its terms to include any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government." In the opinion in the Hammerschmidt case the Court made it clear that government officials are not necessary parties to such a conspiracy. The Court there said 265 U.S. 182, 44 S.Ct. 512: "To conspire to defraud the United States * * * means to interfere with or...

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13 cases
  • United States v. Lester, 16093
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 8 Julio 1966
    ...Cohen v. United States, 157 F. 651 (C.C.A.2, 1907); Lazarov v. United States, 225 F.2d 319, 321 (CA 6, 1955); Joyce v. United States, 153 F. 2d 364, cert. den. 328 U.S. 860, 66 S.Ct. 1349, 90 L.Ed. 1631; United States v. General Motors, 121 F.2d 376, 411 (CA 7, 1941); American Medical Ass'n......
  • Government of Virgin Islands v. Hoheb, 84-3045
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 21 Noviembre 1985
    ...101 S.Ct. Page 141 164, 66 L.Ed.2d 77 (1980); Pomerantz v. United States, 51 F.2d 911, 913 (3d Cir.1931); see also Joyce v. United States, 153 F.2d 364, 367 (8th Cir.) (only other convicted conspirator died following the trial), cert. denied, 328 U.S. 860, 66 S.Ct. 1349, 90 L.Ed. 1631 (1946......
  • United States v. Bowles, Crim. No. 58-38.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • 31 Octubre 1958
    ...See also Crawford v. United States, 1909, 212 U.S. 183, 29 S.Ct. 260, 53 L.Ed. 183 F. Supp. 247 465; Joyce v. United States, 8 Cir., 1946, 153 F.2d 364, certiorari denied 1946, 328 U.S. 860, 66 S.Ct. 1349, 90 L.Ed. 1631; United States v. Moore, C.C.Or. 1909, 173 F. 122; United States v. Sto......
  • Phelps v. United States, 13110-13113.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • 13 Junio 1947
    ...part of the charge of which they now complain. We need not notice the argument on the point further. Cf. Joyce v. United States, 8 Cir., 153 F. 2d 364, 368. The same is true of the arguments made on other parts of the court's instructions to which similarly no exceptions were taken. None is......
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