United States v. Valentine

Citation288 F. Supp. 957
Decision Date20 August 1968
Docket Number15-67,16-67,73-67,80-67,8-67,74-67,75-67,Crim. No. 6-67,67-67,77-67,81-67.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Manuel Amedee Amy VALENTINE, Felix Juan Feliciano Rosario, Hernando Delgado Acevedo, Digno Rafael Ortiz Rivera, Miguel Quiñones Mendoza, Jose Del Carmen Garcia Miranda, Juan M. Rivera Negron, Ricardo Ivan Zengotita Ramos, Florencio Merced Rosa, Ruben Arcelay Medina and Edwin Feliciano Grafals, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico



Francisco A. Gil, Jr., U. S. Atty., Blas Herrero, Jr., Asst. U. S. Atty., San Juan, P. R., Marshall Tamor Golding, Atty., U. S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff.

Marvin Karpatkin, New York City, Roberto Busó Aboy, San Juan, P. R., Rubén Berrios, Rio Piedras, P. R., Luis M. Villaronga, San Juan, P. R., Rabinowitz, Boudin & Standard, New York City and Olaguibeet López Pacheco, Hato Rey, P. R., for defendants.


Defendants herein have been individually indicted for refusing to submit to induction into the armed forces of the United States in violation of 50 U.S.C. App. §§ 454, 462 and Selective Service Regulations, § 1632.14(b) (5).1 All of them have moved to dismiss their indictments on procedural and substantive grounds, and seven of them have moved in addition for sundry pretrial relief.2 All cases were consolidated for hearing on the several motions, at which all parties were represented by counsel. Evidence was heard where appropriate, oral argument was had on all motions, and both sides have submitted briefs. For the reasons stated herein, the Court has concluded that all of defendants' motions should be denied. This opinion will serve in place of findings of fact and conclusions of law.


Defendants attack the procedural validity of their indictments (and of the petit jury array as well) upon three separate grounds. They contest the constitutionality of the statutory requirement that proceedings in this Court be conducted in English,3 and of the statutory limitation of jury service in this court to those who are literate in and have an adequate knowledge of English.4 Additionally, they assert that the jury list from which the grand jury was and the petit jury will be drawn was unlawfully compiled and does not constitute a cross-section of the Puerto Rican community.

Their challenge raises interrelated questions the key to the solution of which lies in the resolution of their attack on 48 U.S.C. § 864. Clearly, if that statute constitutionally requires proceedings in this court to be conducted in English, it is equally constitutional to require adequate comprehension of English as a condition for jury service here; one could hardly serve as a juror if he could not understand the proceedings in court. See Miranda v. United States, 255 F.2d 9, 16-17(C.A.1).5 And if literacy and competency in English may constitutionally be imposed as qualifications for jury service, the cross-sectional adequacy of the jury list and of the methods by which it was compiled must be judged in that context.

A. Constitutionality of the English language requirements.

Defendants question Congress' constitutional authority to require that proceedings in a court which is part of the federal judicial system be conducted in English.6

In any other district court, the contention would be too patently frivolous to require an answer. But Puerto Rico is unique among the judicial entities in which United States district courts are located. As the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico recently held, "the vehicle of expression, the language of the Puerto Rican people—an integral part of our origin and our Spanish culture—has been and continues to be the Spanish language." People v. Superior Court, Opinion No. 65-111, June 30, 1965 (unreported), Bar Association slip opinion, p. 6. No other federal district court is located in a state or territory in which the primary language of a majority of the American citizens resident therein is other than English. Indeed, Congress from the beginning has recognized that Puerto Rico is unique, in that it is fully populated by a homogeneous Spanish-speaking people "living in compact and ancient communities, with definitely formed customs and political conceptions" (Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298, 310, 42 S.Ct. 343, 347, 66 L.Ed. 627), and hence has never attempted to force English upon the people of this island as the language in which local government proceedings are to be conducted.

It does not follow, however, that because proceedings in local courts are conducted in Spanish, proceedings in this court must also be conducted in that language. This court is not a local court of Puerto Rico. Rather, it is a United States district court, part of the federal judicial system, litigating cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States or by reason of diversity of state citizenship. See Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, supra, 258 U.S. at 312, 42 S.Ct. 343; Mora v. Mejías, 206 F.2d 377, 382 (C.A.1, 1953); Miranda v. United States, supra, 255 F.2d at 13; United States v. Montañez, 371 F.2d 79, 83-84 (C.A.2, 1967). Hence, the very reasoning which led the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico to conclude that proceedings in the Commonwealth courts need be conducted only in Spanish applies in reverse to justify conducting proceedings in this court in English. Just as Spanish is "the language of the Puerto Rican people" (People v. Superior Court, supra), the United States has from the time of its independence been an English-speaking nation. Although the American population has included occasional enclaves of foreign-speaking peoples, there has never been any tradition of official bilingualism, such as prevails in countries like Canada, Belgium, Switzerland or India. The past history of the United States discloses no more than occasional minor and temporary accommodations to the language preferences of foreign-speaking peoples where they comprised a substantial segment of the original population of newly acquired areas.7 But no Continental American court, federal or state, has ever conducted its proceedings in any language other than English.8 Thus, while it was proper for Congress to recognize from the beginning Puerto Rico's uniqueness among newly acquired territories, and not force English here as the official local language (as it could have done before commonwealth status was agreed upon), it is equally proper that this court, being a federal rather than a local court, conduct its proceedings in the English rather than the Spanish language. As the Commonwealth Supreme Court recognized, the language requirements of §§ 864 and 867 "are in agreement with and in line with the tradition that the judicial proceedings throughout the whole federal jurisdiction be conducted in the English language." People v. Superior Court, supra.

Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how this court could remain a viable part of the federal judicial system if proceedings here were conducted in Spanish. The basic civil function of federal district court "in offering an opportunity to nonresidents of resorting to a tribunal not subject to local influence" (see Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, supra, 258 U.S. at 312, 42 S.Ct. at 348) would be compromised and unreasonably restricted here, were litigants forced, in order to avail themselves of the facilities of this court, to litigate through interpreters in a language other than English. Similarly, this court's function as the forum in this district for the vindication of federal criminal laws and the resolution of civil controversies to which the United States is a party would be compromised were the Attorney General of the United States unable to appear here personally on the government's behalf unless he were conversant with Spanish, and were he limited by similar considerations in designating a member of his staff to appear. There would also be an anomalous limitation, unique within the federal system, on judges from other districts who could sit here by designation when needed. Moreover, the statutes which this court applies are (except in those instances where commonwealth or foreign statutes are at issue) written in English. The consequent necessity of phrasing an indictment or civil complaint in Spanish upon the basis of a statute written in English would manifestly lend itself to the strong possibility of injustice through distortion of meaning in translation. Similar possibilities of injustice would arise on appeal, where the entire record would have to be translated back into English.9 Finally, this court, and the attorneys who practice here, would be effectively insulated from the body of law developed throughout the rest of the federal system, since the opinions of all other federal courts and the legislative histories of all federal enactments are published only in English.10

These considerations are not counterbalanced by any prejudice to litigants arising from the English language requirements. There is no real risk of litigants being tried by juries unable to understand the evidence since if any veniremen lack sufficient facility with English to render competent jury service, they can be and are eliminated on voir dire. No evidence was adduced to show that the voir dire process is inadequate in practice for this task.11 While some of the criminal defendants here are tried in a language they do not understand, the problem is not unique to this district; the situation arises in other districts as well, although concededly not to the same extent as it does here.12 A defendant's right to a fair trial, however, is personal, not collective; a non-English speaking defendant could not be thought to be the less prejudiced if he is tried in a district where few defendants are in the same situation than if he is tried in a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
36 cases
  • Liquilux Gas Services of Ponce, Inc. v. Tropical Gas Company
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • September 10, 1969
    ......v. . TROPICAL GAS COMPANY, Inc., et al., Defendants. . Civ. A. No. 32-61. . United States District Court D. Puerto Rico. . September 10, 1969. 303 F. Supp. 415          ...San Juan, 289 F.Supp. 983 (D.P.R. 1968); United States v. Valentine, 288 F.Supp. 957 (D.P.R.1968); David Cabrera, Inc. v. Unión de Choferes y Dueños, 256 F.Supp. 839 ......
  • United States v. Marcano, Crim. No. 78-107.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • November 7, 1980
    ......It is clear 508 F. Supp. 467 from the legislative history of the Act that it "does not insist upon randomness in the sense in which that term might be understood by statistitians." S.Rep.No.891, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 16 n. 9, quoted in United States v. Valentine, 288 F.Supp. 957, 973 (D.P.R.1968). All that is required is that the names by selected by chance (i. e., at random) from the corresponding source, in this case the electoral lists for the November 2, 1976 election. See United States v. Ramos Colón, 415 F.Supp. 459, 462-463 (D.P.R.1976); ......
  • Foster v. Sparks, 73-3732
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • January 20, 1975
    ......v. . James L. SPARKS et al., etc., Defendants-Appellees. . No. 73-3732. . United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. . Jan. 20, 1975. . Page 806 .         C. B. ...Hamling, 481 F.2d 307 (9th Cir. 1973); United States v. Valentine, 288 F.Supp. 957 (D.P.R.1968) (purpose is exclusive means of showing discrimination) with, e.g. ......
  • United States v. Ramos Colon, Crim. No. 74-213.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • March 16, 1976
    ......Consequently it can not be seriously contended that there is "failure to comply with the provisions of this title", because it is in fact said compliance that brings about the results complained of by Defendant. See U. S. v. Valentine, 288 F.Supp. 957, 970 (DC PR, 1968). .         Furthermore, again looking only at the issue of statutory compliance, 7 any underrepresentation brought about by the English language requirement is within a permissible scope allowed by Congress. See U.S. Code Congressional and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT