United States v. Raddatz, No. 79-8

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBURGER
Citation100 S.Ct. 2406,447 U.S. 667,65 L.Ed.2d 424
Decision Date23 June 1980
Docket NumberNo. 79-8
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. Herman RADDATZ

447 U.S. 667
100 S.Ct. 2406
65 L.Ed.2d 424
UNITED STATES, Petitioner,

v.

Herman RADDATZ.

No. 79-8.
Argued Feb. 25, 1980.
Decided June 23, 1980.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 22, 1980.
See 448 U.S. 916, 101 S.Ct. 36.
Syllabus

Prior to his trial on federal criminal charges, respondent moved to suppress certain incriminating statements he had made to police officers and federal agents. Over objections, the District Court referred the motion to a Magistrate for an evidentiary hearing pursuant to a provision of the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), which authorizes a district court to refer such a motion to a magistrate and thereafter to determine and decide such motion based on the record developed before the magistrate, including the magistrate's proposed findings of fact and recommendations. Section 636(b)(1) also provides that the judge shall make a "de novo determination" of those portions of the magistrate's report, findings, or recommendations to which objection is made, and that the judge may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate's findings or recommendations; alternatively the judge may receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate with instructions. Based on his view of the credibility of the testimony at the hearing on respondent's motion, the Magistrate found that respondent had knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made the inculpatory statements and recommended that the motion to suppress be denied. Over respondent's objections to the Magistrate's report, the District Court accepted the recommendation and denied the motion to suppress, stating that it had considered the transcript of the Magistrate's hearing, the parties' proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and supporting memoranda, the Magistrate's recommendation, and oral argument of counsel. Respondent was then tried and convicted, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding, inter alia, that respondent had been deprived of due process by the District Court's failure personally to hear the controverted testimony on the motion to suppress.

Held :

1. Under the statute—which calls for "de novo determination," not a de novo hearing—the District Court was not required to rehear the testimony on which the Magistrate based his findings and recommendations in order to make an independent evaluation of credibility. The legislative history discloses that Congress purposefully used the word

Page 668

determination rather than hearing, believing that Art. III was satisfied if the ultimate adjudicatory determination was reserved to the Art. III officer, and that Congress intended to permit whatever reliance the judge, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, chose to place on the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations. Pp. 673-676.

2. The statute strikes the proper balance between the demands of due process under the Fifth Amendment and the constraints of Art. III. Pp. 677-684.

(a) The nature of the issues presented and the interests implicated in a motion to suppress evidence do not require, as a matter of due process, that the district judge must actually hear the challenged testimony. While the resolution of a suppression motion may determine the outcome of the case, the interests underlying a voluntariness hearing do not coincide with the criminal law objective of determining guilt or innocence, but are of a lesser magnitude than those in the criminal trial itself. The due process rights claimed here are adequately protected by the statute, under which the district judge alone acts as the ultimate decisionmaker, with the broad discretion to accept, reject, or modify the magistrate's proposed findings, or to hear the witnesses live to resolve conflicting credibility claims. The statutory scheme also includes sufficient procedures to alert the district court whether to exercise its discretion to conduct a hearing and view the witnesses itself. Pp. 677-681.

(b) Although the statute permits the district court to give the magistrate's proposed findings of fact and recommendations such weight as their merit commands and the sound discretion of the judge warrants, that delegation does not violate Art. III so long as the ultimate decision is made by the district court. Congress has not sought to delegate the task of rendering a final decision on a suppression motion to a non-Art. III officer, but instead has made clear that the district court has plenary discretion whether to authorize a magistrate to hold an evidentiary hearing and that the magistrate acts subsidiary to and only in aid of the court, the entire process thereafter taking place under the court's total control and jurisdiction. Pp. 681-683.

592 F.2d 976, reversed.

Page 669

Andrew J. Levander, Washington, D. C., for petitioner, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Joan B. Gottschall, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari, 444 U.S. 824, 100 S.Ct. 44, 62 L.Ed.2d 30, to resolve the constitutionality of a provision of the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), which permits a district court to refer to a magistrate a motion to suppress evidence and authorizes the district court to determine and decide such motion based on the record developed before a magistrate, including the magistrate's proposed findings of fact and recommendations.

I

Respondent Raddatz was indicted on March 31, 1977, in the Northern District of Illinois for unlawfully receiving a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(h). Prior to trial, respondent moved to suppress certain incriminating statements he had made to police officers and to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Over his objections, the District Court referred the motion to a Magistrate for an evidentiary hearing pursuant to the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

The evidence received at the suppression hearing disclosed that on August 8, 1976, two police officers responded to a report of a crime in progress. When they arrived at the scene, they observed respondent standing next to one Jimmy Baston, who was lying on the street, bleeding from the head.

Page 670

Respondent was placed under arrest for illegal use of a weapon and was given Miranda warnings. The arresting officers testified that respondent explained at the time of his arrest and after the warning that he had been fighting with Baston over a family dispute and had brought the gun with him in case any of Baston's friends tried to interfere.

In due course, state charges were filed against respondent. One month later, on November 19, 1976, Agents Russell and McCulloch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms interviewed respondent at his home. According to their testimony at the suppression hearing, the agents had been informed by state officials that a state firearms charge was pending against respondent. The agents questioned respondent about the gun found in his possession at the time he was arrested because it had at one time been owned by an out-of-state man who had been slain in an unsolved homicide. At this interview, respondent gave a different version of the events, stating that he had seized the gun from Baston during their August 8 fight and that he did not know where Baston had obtained a gun. The agents asked respondent to help them locate Baston and told him they would inform the United States Attorney of his cooperation if he were subsequently prosecuted.

Respondent's testimony before the Magistrate concerning the November 19 interview varied from that of the federal agents. According to his testimony, he was informed that he would shortly be indicted for violations of federal firearms laws, but that if he agreed to cooperate, "somebody would talk to the prosecutor, and it would be dismissed." He also testified that he was told that if he did not agree to help, he could find himself "going to the Federal penitentiary for a long time."

On January 12, 1977, respondent telephoned the agents and requested a meeting. At this interview, he retracted his November 19 version and stated that he had not taken the gun from Baston, but had obtained it from his half-brother.

Page 671

He testified at the suppression hearing that he made the incriminating statements at the January 12 meeting only after first obtaining confirmation from the agents of their November 19 promise that the indictment would be dismissed if he cooperated. The agents testified that no such promise was ever made to respondent, either on November 19 or on January 12. They testified that at the January 12 meeting respondent agreed to act as an informant and that they gave him $10 at that time to assist him in gathering information.

A final meeting occurred on January 14, 1977. Respondent returned to the local offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, accompanied by his wife and children. He was informed by Agent McCulloch that his case had been referred to the United States Attorney for prosecution. The agents again discussed with him the possibility of his becoming an informant, and repeated their promise that any cooperation would be brought to the attention of the United States Attorney. Agent McCulloch gave respondent $50 to pay expenses of acquiring information.

II

The focus of respondent's legal argument at the suppression hearing was that under Malloy v. Hogan, 378 U.S. 1, 7, 84 S.Ct. 1489, 1493, 12 L.Ed.2d 653 (1964), and Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 542-543, 18 S.Ct. 183, 186-187, 42 L.Ed. 568 (1897), his confession was not freely and voluntarily given. He contended that he had been induced to utter the incriminating statements through a promise of immunity and sought to demonstrate a course of conduct on the part of the agents supportive of such a promise.

In his report and findings, the Magistrate recommended that the motion to suppress...

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5589 practice notes
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    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 2, November 2021
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