St Pierre v. United States

Decision Date03 May 1943
Docket NumberNo. 687,687
Citation63 S.Ct. 910,87 L.Ed. 1199,319 U.S. 41
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Edward V. Broderick, of New York City, for petitioner.


Petitioner, who it is alleged had in his testimony before a federal grand jury confessed to the commission of the crime of embezzlement, refused to divulge the name of the person whose money he had embezzled. For the refusal the district court sentenced him to five months' imprisonment for contempt of court, and the circuit court of appeals affirmed the judgment. United States v. St. Pierre, 2 Cir., 132 F.2d 837. We granted certiorari, 318 U.S. 751, 63 S.Ct. 769, 87 L.Ed. —-, on a petition which raised important questions with respect to petitioner's constitutional immunity from self-incrimination. In the order allowing the writ we requested counsel to discuss the question whether the case had become moot.

On the argument it was conceded that petitioner had fully served his sentence before certiorari was granted. We are of opinion that the case is moot because, after petitioner's service of his sentence and its expiration, there was no longer a subject matter on which the judgment of this Court could operate. A federal court is without power to decide moot questions or to give advisory opinions which cannot affect the rights of the litigants in the case before it. United States v. Alaska S.S. Co., 253 U.S. 113, 115, 116, 40 S.Ct. 448, 64 L.Ed. 808, and cases cited; United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische Packet-Fahrt-Actien Gesellschaft, 239 U.S. 466, 475—477, 36 S.Ct. 212, 216, 60 L.Ed. 387. The sentence cannot be enlarged by this Court's judgment, and reversal of the judgment below cannot operate to undo what has been done or restore to petitioner the penalty of the term of imprisonment which he has served. Nor has petitioner shown that under either state or federal law further penalties or disabilities can be imposed on him as a result of the judgment which has now been satisfied. In these respects the case differs from that of an injunction whose command continues to operate in futuro even though obeyed. Federal Trade Comm. v. Goodyear Co., 304 U.S. 257, 260, 58 S.Ct. 863, 864, 82 L.Ed. 1326, and cases cited.

It does not appear that petitioner could not have brought his case to this Court for review before the expiration of his sentence, and although it is said he applied for bail to the district court and to the circuit court of appeals, he did not...

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232 cases
  • Potomac Riv. Ass'n, Inc. v. Lundeberg Md. Sea. Sch., Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • 11 Abril 1975
    ...Div. 998 v. Employment Relations Board, 340 U.S. 416, 418, 71 S. Ct. 373, 95 L.Ed. 389 (1951), quoting, St. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41, 42, 63 S.Ct. 910, 87 L.Ed. 1199 (1943). When it appears that the thing sought to be prevented has been done and cannot be undone by an order of t......
  • deLEIRIS v. Scott
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island
    • 10 Septiembre 1986
    ...opinions. North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246, 92 S.Ct. 402, 404, 30 L.Ed.2d 413 (1971); St. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41, 42, 63 S.Ct. 910, 911, 87 L.Ed. 1199 (1943). Because no mandatory scheme is currently in place, any declaratory relief would at best operate in the abstra......
  • Brown v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 9 Marzo 1959
    ...United States v. St. Pierre, 2 Cir., 132 F.2d 837, 147 A.L.R. 240 (five-month sentence), certiorari dismissed as moot 319 U.S. 41, 63 S.Ct. 910, 87 L.Ed. 1199. The following cases in the Second Circuit definitely adopted the procedure here in question: United States v. Trock, 2 Cir., 232 F.......
  • Parker v. Ellis
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 16 Mayo 1960
    ...which no longer affects legal rights does not present a case or controversy for appellate review.' St. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41, 43, 63 S.Ct. 910, 911, 87 L.Ed. 1199. Mr. Chief Justice WARREN, with whom Mr. Justice BLACK, Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, and Mr. Justice BRENNAN join, If the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Changing the Rule Changes the Game: a Rule 68 Offer for Complete Relief Should Never Moot an Individual's Claim
    • United States
    • Emory University School of Law Emory Law Journal No. 65-1, 2015
    • Invalid date
    ...decide moot questions . . . which cannot affect the rights of the litigants in the case before it." (quoting St. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41, 42 (1943))). 42. "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases . . . [and] Controversies." U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2, cl. 1.43. See, e.g., 1......
    • United States
    • FNREL - Special Institute Challenging and Defending Federal Natural Resource Agency Decisions (FNREL)
    • Invalid date
    ...if a change in circumstances means that a judicial ruling will no longer affect the rights of the litigant. 57. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41, 42 (1943). "No matter how vehemently the parties continue to dispute the lawfulness of the conduct that precipitated the lawsuit, the case is......
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Federal Habeas Corpus: Cases and Materials (CAP)
    • Invalid date
    ...of the six-month sentence imposed upon him as a result of his conviction, the case has become moot under St. Pierre v. United States, 319 U.S. 41 (1943). We have concluded that the case is not moot. In the first place, it is clear that the broad dictum with which the Court commenced its dis......

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