Midland Asphalt Corporation v. United States

Decision Date28 March 1989
Docket NumberNo. 87-1905,87-1905
Citation103 L.Ed.2d 879,109 S.Ct. 1494,489 U.S. 794
PartiesMIDLAND ASPHALT CORPORATION and Albert C. Litteer, Petitioners v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Petitioners moved to dismiss a federal indictment against them on the ground, inter alia, that the prosecution had violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)(2)—which generally prohibits public disclosure by Government attorneys of "matters occurring before the grand jury"—by filing, in a separate criminal case, a memorandum disclosing matters before the grand jury in this case. After the District Court enied the motion, the Court of Appeals granted the Government's motion to dismiss petitioners' appeal for lack of jurisdiction on the ground that the District Court's order was not an immediately appealable "final decision" under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The court rejected petitioners' contention that United States v. Mechanik, 475 U.S. 66, 106 S.Ct. 938, 89 L.Ed.2d 50, which held that an alleged violation of Rule 6(d) was rendered harmless beyond a reasonable doubt by a petit jury's guilty verdict, would render orders of this sort "effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment," Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 468, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 2458, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 and immediately appealable under the collateral order exception to the final judgment rule.

Held: A district court order denying a defendant's motion to dismiss an indictment for an alleged violation of Rule 6(e) is not immediately appealable under § 1291. Since petitioners have not yet been sentenced, the District Court's order is not a final judgment ending the litigation on the merits. Moreover, whatever view is taken of the scope of Mechanik (an issue not resolved here), an order such as that at issue does not satisfy the stringent requirements of the Coopers & Lybrand test. There is no merit in petitioners' contention that such orders are "effectively unreviewable" once trial has been held because they pertain to a right not merely not to be convicted, but a right not to be tried at all. Neither the text of Rule 6(e) nor the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment affords a right not to be tried (in the sense relevant for the collateral order doctrine) in the event of a violation of grand jury secrecy. Pp. 798-802.

840 F.2d 1040 (CA2 1988), affirmed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Richard James Braun for petitioners.

Lawrence S. Robbins for respondent.

Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)(2) prohibits public disclosure by Government attorneys of "matters occurring before the grand jury" except in certain specified circumstances. This case presents the question whether a district court order denying a criminal defendant's motion to dismiss an indictment for an alleged violation of Rule 6(e) is immediately appealable.

I

On January 23, 1987, a federal grand jury in the Western District of New York returned an indictment against petitioners Midland Asphalt Corporation, a business engaged in the sale of liquid bituminous material used to resurface roads, and Albert C. Litteer, Midland's president and part owner. The indictment alleged that they had violated § 1 of the Sherman Act, 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 1, by conspiring with other unindicted persons to allocate contracts and to submit collusive bids to the State of New York and certain counties in western New York. On July 21, 1987, petitioners moved to dismiss the indictment on grounds which included an alleged violation by federal prosecutors of Rule 6(e)(2).

Petitioners' Rule 6(e) allegations arose from the following facts: When the grand jury that ultimately returned the Sherman Act indictment was sitting, Midland and another company under investigation brought suit seeking to have the Government pay for the cost of compliance with grand jury subpoenas. In re Grand Jury Subpoenas to Midland Asphalt Corp. and Krantz Asphalt Co., Civ. No. 85-633E (WDNY, Feb. 12, 1985) (In re Grand Jury Subpoenas ). In that action Midland filed a motion asking that the District Court compel the Government to retain its rough and final notes of witness interviews. In response, the Government filed a memorandum in which it agreed to retain rough notes and final reports prepared by prosecutors and other Government personnel during its investigation of the western New York road-paving business. Approximately one year later, the defendants in a separate criminal case, also involving allegations of asphalt contract bid rigging in western New York State, United States v. Allegany Bitumens, Inc., Crim. No. 86-59C (WDNY, Apr. 14, 1986), filed a similar motion to require the Government to preserve its interview notes. Again the Government filed a memorandum agreeing to do so, noting that it had already made such a commitment to the District Court, and attaching a copy of its earlier memorandum in the In re Grand Jury Subpoenas case.

Petitioners' motion to dismiss the indictment in the present case alleged that the Government's filing, in Allegany Bitumens, of its memorandum from the In re Grand Jury Subpoenas case, publicly "disclose[d] matters occurring before the grand jury" in violation of Rule 6(e)(2). Specifically, the motion alleged that the memorandum disclosed the nature and focus of the investigation, the name of a grand jury witness, and the fact that the witness was to testify as an individual and not as a document custodian for Midland. Finding that the prosecution had not violated Rule 6(e)(2), the District Court denied petitioners' motion to dismiss the indictment.

On appeal in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, contending that the District Court's order declining to dismiss the indictment was not a "final decision" under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Petitioners responded that this Court's decision in United States v. Mechanik, 475 U.S. 66, 106 S.Ct. 938, 89 L.Ed.2d 50 (1986), in which we held that an alleged violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(d) was rendered harmless beyond a reasonable doubt by a petit jury's guilty verdict, would make district court orders denying motions to dismiss indictments based on alleged violations of Rule 6(e) "effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment," Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 468, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 2458, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978), and hence immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, see ibid. The Court of Appeals rejected petitioners' contention on the ground that Rule 6(d), the subsection at issue in Mechanik, exists primarily "to protect the person under investigation from being indicted in the absence of probable cause," 840 F.2d 1040, 1046 (1988), whereas Rule 6(e) serves the different function of "protect[ing] society's interest in keeping secret the identity of grand jury witnesses and persons under investigation," ibid. It concluded that "Mechanik [would not] preclud[e] a federal court of appeals from exercising post-trial review of an order denying a motion to dismiss an indictment for violation of Rule 6(e)," ibid., that denials of motions to dismiss indictments for alleged violations of Rule 6(e) are therefore not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine, and that the Government's motion to dismiss the appeal in the case before it should be granted.

We granted certiorari to resolve a disagreement among the Courts of Appeals.1 487 U.S. 1217, 108 S.Ct. 2869, 101 L.Ed.2d 905 (1988).

II

In the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat. 73, the First Congress established the principle that only "final judgments and decrees" of the federal district courts may be reviewed on appeal. Id., at 84. The statute has changed little since then: 28 U.S.C. § 1291 today provides that federal courts of appeals "shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts . . . except where a direct review may be had in the Supreme Court." For purposes of this provision, a final judgment is normally deemed not to have occurred "until there has been a decision by the District Court that 'ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.' " Van Cauwenberghe v. Biard, 486 U.S. 517, 521, 108 S.Ct. 1945, 1949, 100 L.Ed.2d 517 (1988), quoting Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 233, 65 S.Ct. 631, 633, 89 L.Ed. 911 (1945). In criminal cases, this prohibits appellate review until after conviction and imposition of sentence. Flanagan v. United States, 465 U.S. 259, 263, 104 S.Ct. 1051, 1054, 79 L.Ed.2d 288 (1984); Berman v. United States, 302 U.S. 211, 212, 58 S.Ct. 164, 166, 82 L.Ed. 204 (1937). Since petitioners have not yet even been tried, much less convicted or sentenced, it is plain that the District Court's order denying their motion to dismiss falls within this prohibition.

In Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 69 S.Ct. 1221, 93 L.Ed. 1528 (1949), we carved out a narrow exception to the normal application of the final judgment rule, which has come to be known as the collateral order doctrine. This exception considers as "final judgments," even though they do not "end the litigation on the merits," decisions "which finally determine claims of right separate from, and collateral to, rights asserted in the action, too important to be denied review and too independent of the cause itself to require that appellate jurisdiction be deferred until the whole case is adjudi- cated." Id., at 546, 69 S.Ct., at 1225. To fall within the limited class of final collateral orders, an order must (1) "conclusively determine the disputed question," (2) "resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action," and (3) "be effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, supra, 437 U.S. at 468, 98 S.Ct., at 2458.

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