Alderman v. United States

PETITIONER: Willie Israel Alderman
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Alamance County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 394 US 165 (1969)
GRANTED: Jan 29, 1968
REARGUED: Oct 14, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 10, 1969
ARGUED: May 02, 1968

Facts of the case

The petitioners were convicted of illegally passing national defense information to the Soviet Union; their cases were affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. In a petition for rehearing, the petitioners claimed that the government had relied on illegally obtained eavesdropping evidence to convict. The Court granted a rehearing and in a per curiam opinion vacated the appellate court judgment and remanded the case to the federal trial court for a rehearing.

The United States sought to modify the Supreme Court's order, urging that the eavesdropping evidence should be reviewed in camera by the trial judge who would then transmit only relevant evidence to the parties. The petitioners argued their opposition to the motion in the 1967 Term. The matter was reargued in the 1968 Term.


(1) Do the petitioners have standing to object to surveillance evidence without prior screening in camera?

(2) Must evidence be excluded from trial if the government unlawfully overheard the petitioners' conversations or conversations occurring on the petitioners' premises, even if they were not present, or did not participate in, the conversations?

Media for Alderman v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 14, 1968 in Alderman v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 02, 1968 in Alderman v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 133, Rob B. Kolod et. al, petitioners versus United States.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Erwin N. Griswold:

May it please the Court.

This case began as an indictment in the District Court for Colorado for conspiracy to transmit in interstate commerce communications containing threats designed to injure one, Robert Sunshine.

There were then four defendants; one was acquitted and of course is not here.

The other three defendants appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

At the trial, the defendant Kolod sought to introduce evidence about an illegal surveillance which is the fancy way to call it, bugging is the other way it's called at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He offered this in rebuttal in order he said to disprove or offset evidence offered by the Government.

The trial court examined the materials in camera and held that they were not relevant and that the evidence could not be introduced.

The three defendants who were convicted appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and pending the appeal, the Government disclosed that it had additional files relating to conversations overheard at the Desert Inn.

The case was remanded to the District Court to examine this material in camera.

The Court found nothing admissible in the additional material.

Thereafter, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the convictions.

A petition for certiorari was filed here and was denied in October 1967.

Now that is the background.

Before going further, I should point out that the electronic surveillance material examined in the courts below related to the defendant Kolod and the premises which he used in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Kolod has since died and the petition as to him has been dismissed on January 29th of this year.Consequently, there is nothing now before the court relating to the electronic surveillance material which was considered by the courts below.

We now have wholly new problem.

At the post trial hearing in the District Court and in the petition for certiorari here, counsel for Alderisio, another -- the defendants stated that there was newly discovered evidence of a wiretap or listening device used against his client in Chicago between October 1, 1960 and December 31, 1962.?

The nature or source of this evidence was not stated, it is this surveillance in Chicago relating to the petitioner Alderisio with which the court is now concern.

After the denial of the petition for certiorari, the petitioners sought an order suspending the denial of certiorari pending the filing of a petition for a rehearing.

Mr. Spritzer, the acting Solicitor General made a typewritten response to this application.

Thereafter, the petitioner filed a petition for rehearing and a motion for the disclosure of electronic surveillance and this is the matter which is now before the Court.

Earl Warren:

We'll recess now.

Mr. Solicitor General, you may continue.

Erwin N. Griswold:

Just before the recess, I said that counsel for the petitioners had filed a petition for a rehearing and a motion for the disclosure of electronic surveillance and that that was where we were now.

I left out another step which is the step which is the one which brings us here.

The United States made a response to that motion and the Court then on January 29th, entered an order with -- an opinion remanding the case for an adversary proceeding in the District Court.

It was then that the United States filed the motion which is now before the court.

This is entitled a motion to Modify the Order of the court.