United States v. Rodgers

Decision Date30 April 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-620,83-620
Citation104 S.Ct. 1942,466 U.S. 475,80 L.Ed.2d 492
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Larry Wayne RODGERS
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Respondent was indicted for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Secret Service, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which makes it a crime knowingly and willfully to make a false statement "in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States." Respondent admittedly had lied in telling the FBI that his wife had been kidnapped, when, in fact, as the FBI determined upon investigation, she had left him voluntarily, and in also telling the Secret Service that his wife was involved in a plot to assassinate the President, when, in fact, the Secret Service, after investigating the charge and upon locating the wife, was told by her that she had left home to get away from respondent. The District Court granted respondent's motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the investigations were not matters "within the jurisdiction" of the respective agencies, as that phrase is used in § 1001. The Court of Appeals affirmed, relying on its decision in a prior case that limited the term "jurisdiction" as used in § 1001 to "the power to make final or binding determinations."

Held: The language of § 1001 clearly encompasses criminal investigations conducted by the FBI and Secret Service, and nothing in the legislative history indicates that Congress intended a more restrictive reach for the statute. Pp. 479-484.

(a) A criminal investigation surely falls within the meaning of "any matter," and the FBI and Secret Service equally surely qualify as "department[s] or agenc[ies] of the United States." And the most natural, nontechnical meaning of "jurisdiction" is that it covers all matters confided to the authority of an agency or department. Understood in this way, the statutory phrase "within the jurisdiction" merely differentiates the official, authorized functions of an agency or department from matters peripheral to its business. To limit the term "jurisdiction," as the Court of Appeals did, would exclude from the statute's coverage most, if not all, of the authorized activities of many federal departments and agencies, and thereby defeat Congress' purpose in using the broad inclusive language it did. Pp. 479-482.

(b) Policy arguments favoring a more limited construction of the statute will not change the result in this case. Resolution of the pros and cons of whether a statute should sweep broadly or narrowly is for Congress. Pp. 482-484.

(c) The critical statutory language of § 1001 is not sufficiently ambiguous to permit the rule of lenity in construing criminal statutes to control here. P. 484.

(d) Any argument against retroactive application of this decision to respondent, even if he could establish reliance on the Court of Appeals' decision in the prior case, is unavailing, since conflicting cases from other Courts of Appeals made review of the merits by this Court and a decision against respondent's position reasonably foreseeable. P. 484.

706 F.2d 854 (8 Cir.1983), reversed and remanded.

Barbara E. Etkind, Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioner.

Albert N. Moskowitz, Kansas City, Mo., for respondent.

Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent Larry Rodgers was charged in a two-count indictment with making "false, fictitious or fraudulent statements" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Secret Service, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.1 Rodgers allegedly lied in telling the FBI that his wife had been kidnaped and in telling the Secret Service that his wife was involved in a plot to kill the President. Rodgers moved to dismiss the indictment for failure to state an offense on the grounds that the investigation of kidnapings and the protection of the President are not matters "within the jurisdiction" of the respective agencies, as that phrase is used in § 1001. The District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted the motion, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. We now reverse. The statutory language clearly encompasses criminal investigations conducted by the FBI and the Secret Service, and nothing in the legislative history indicates that Congress intended a more restricted reach for the statute.

On June 2, 1982, Larry Rodgers telephoned the Kansas City, Missouri, office of the FBI and reported that his wife had been kidnaped. The FBI spent over 100 agent hours investigating the alleged kidnaping only to determine that Rodgers' wife had left him voluntarily. Two weeks later, Rodgers contacted the Kansas City office of the Secret Service and reported that his "estranged girlfriend" (actually his wife) was involved in a plot to assassinate the President. The Secret Service spent over 150 hours of agent and clerical time investigating this threat and eventually located Rodgers' wife in Arizona. She stated that she left Kansas City to get away from her husband. Rodgers later confessed that he made the false reports to induce the federal agencies to locate his wife.

In granting Rodgers' motion to dismiss the indictment, the District Court considered itself bound by a prior decision of the Eighth Circuit in Friedman v. United States, 374 F.2d 363 (1967). Friedman also involved false statements made to the FBI to initiate a criminal investigation. In that case, the Court of Appeals reversed the defendant's conviction under § 1001, holding that the phrase "within the jurisdiction," as used in that provision, referred only to "the power to make final or binding determinations." Id., at 367.

The Friedman court noted that the current statutory language was first passed in 1934 at the urging of some of the newly created regulatory agencies. See S.Rep. No. 1202, 73d Cong., 2d Sess. (1934). A predecessor provision pun- ished false statements only when made "for the purpose and with the intent of cheating and swindling or defrauding the Government of the United States." Act of Oct. 23, 1918, ch. 194, 40 Stat. 1015. In 1934, Congress deleted the requirement of a specific purpose and enlarged the class of punishable false statements to include false statements made "in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States." Act of June 18, 1934, ch. 587, 48 Stat. 996. The "immediate and primary purpose" of this amendment, the Eighth Circuit surmised, was to curtail the flow of false information to the new agencies, which was interfering with their administrative and regulatory functions.

"Though the statute was drafted in broad inclusive terms, presumably due to the numerous agencies and the wide variety of information needed, there is nothing to indicate that Congress intended this statute to have application beyond the purposes for which it was created." 374 F.2d, at 366.

Reading the term "jurisdiction" in this restrictive light, the Court of Appeals included within its scope the "power to make monetary awards, grant governmental privileges, or promulgate binding administrative and regulative determinations," while excluding "the mere authority to conduct an investigation in a given area without the power to dispose of the problems or compel action." Id., at 367. The court concluded that false statements made to the FBI were not covered by § 1001 because the FBI "had no power to adjudicate rights, establish binding regulations, compel the action or finally dispose of the problem giving rise to the inquiry." Id., at 368.

In the present case, the Court of Appeals adhered to its decision in Friedman and affirmed the dismissal of the indictment. The court acknowledged that two other Courts of Appeals had expressly rejected the reasoning of Friedman. See United States v. Adler, 380 F.2d 917, 922 (CA2), cert denied, 389 U.S. 1006, 88 S.Ct. 561, 19 L.Ed.2d 602 (1967); United States v. Lambert, 501 F.2d 943, 946 (CA5 1974) (en banc). But the Eighth Circuit found its own analysis more persuasive. We granted certiorari to resolve this conflict. 464 U.S. 1007, 104 S.Ct. 523, 78 L.Ed.2d 707 (1983).

It seems to us that the interpretation of § 1001 adopted by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is unduly strained. Section 1001 expressly embraces false statements made "in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States." (Emphasis supplied.) A criminal investigation surely falls within the meaning of "any matter," and the FBI and the Secret Service equally surely qualify as "department[s] or agenc[ies] of the United States." The only possible verbal vehicle for narrowing the sweeping language Congress enacted is the word "jurisdiction." But we do not think that that term, as used in this statute, admits of the constricted construction given it by the Court of Appeals.

"Jurisdiction" is not defined in the statute. We therefore "start with the assumption that the legislative purpose is expressed by the ordinary meaning of the words used." Richards v. United States, 369 U.S. 1, 9, 82 S.Ct. 585, 591, 7 L.Ed.2d 492 (1962). The most natural, nontechnical reading of the statutory language is that it covers all matters confided to the authority of an agency or department. Thus, Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1227 (1976) broadly defines "jurisdiction" as, among other things, "the limits or territory within which any particular power may be exercised: sphere of authority." A department or agency has jurisdiction, in this sense, when it has the power to exercise authority in a particular situation. See United States v. Adler, supra, at 922 ("the word 'jurisdiction' as used in the statute must mean simply the power to act upon information when it is received"). Understood in this way, the phrase "within the jurisdiction" merely differentiates the official, authorized...

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16 books & journal articles
  • False statements and false claims.
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    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 No. 2, March 2008
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