Beech Aircraft Corporation v. Rainey

PETITIONER: Beech Aircraft Corporation
LOCATION: Michigan Dept. of Treasury

DOCKET NO.: 87-981
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 488 US 153 (1988)
ARGUED: Oct 04, 1988
DECIDED: Dec 12, 1988

Dennis K. Larry - on behalf of the Respondent
Joseph W. Womack - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Beech Aircraft Corporation v. Rainey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 04, 1988 in Beech Aircraft Corporation v. Rainey

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Womack, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Joseph W. Womack:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, these petitions respectfully ask you to consider two of the Federal rules of evidence.

The first is 803, having to do with the use of Government reports.

The second is a different rule, namely 106, concerning contemporaneous publication of documents.

This, as the Court will know, is essentially a codification of Dean Wigmore's completeness formulation.

Implicit in the second point, if the Court please, is also a different, a third rule, namely, 801, and I say implicit because it is triggered by a footnote in the panel opinion of the Eleventh Circuit.

With regard to 803, namely, the Government report rule, a moment or two, please, of background.

In mid-July of 1982, a tragic accident involving the loss of a Navy trainer, sadly, we lost a pilot and a student.

The following day, the squadron commander convened separate investigations.

The one in question here is the JAG investigation commenced pursuant to the Judge Advocate General's manual.

Subsequently suits were filed, diversity suits were filed, in the Northern District of Florida, consolidated for handling discovery and trial of bifurcated proceedings.

With trial in mid-July of 1984, it was during that trial that I offered, as an exhibit for the jury, certain portions of the JAG officer's report.

Historically, I think I had brought that matter to the District Judge's notice several months before the trial, at least four months before trial.

The Court considered the matter, brief were filed, it was considered orally and in memoranda.

The Court ultimately concluded that of the 31 factual findings in the JAG report, that it would admit or allow me to use four.

Of the nine conclusions or opinions contained in the JAG report, the District Judge admitted one.

For convenience, I think the full text of the total report, that is, the factual findings and the conclusions, are set out in the Beech petition.

And I raise this purely as a matter of clarify, because the en banc opinion and the panel opinion below both say... and I think respectfully, erroneously, assume... that all of the report was admitted, and that's not correct.

So if you take the joint appendix, you have what the Court assumed to have been admitted, and you take the petition and you have the exact document that was admitted.

Actually, after the Court's ruling, I simply had it retyped, so as not in the heat of trial to admit anything that the Court didn't want admitted and use it as a blow-up exploded exhibit for the jury.

The specific bone of contention, if I may put it that way, is a statement by the JAG officer in his conclusions that the probable cause of this tragedy was the pilot's failure to maintain proper interval.

And by that he means, of course, a violation of the distances required by pattern integrity and not touch and go pattern with training squadron.

At the time of the accident, parenthetically, there were six airplanes in the pattern.

Immediately before there had been five, and when the sixth airplane entered the pattern, this tragedy occurred.

The Court of Appeals of my Circuit... the panel took it away from me, took the verdict away from me.

William H. Rehnquist:

The District Court admitted the evidence?

Joseph W. Womack:

Yes, sir, yes, your Honor.

The panel reversed.

There was a special concurrence by second Judge Frank Johnson, suggesting that the Court take it en banc.

We petitioned, the Court recalled the panel opinion, ordered new briefs filed, and ultimately considered the case further without argument, but on new briefs.