Bell v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Family Court of Ulster County

DOCKET NO.: 82-5119
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 462 US 356 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1983

Roy W. Allman - on behalf of the Petitioner (appointed by this Court)
Rudolph W. Giuliani - on behalf of Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Bell v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1983 in Bell v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The next case is Bell v. United States.

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

Roy W. Allman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

It is my position here in the interpretation of the federal bank robbery statute, section 2113(b) does not cover the crime of false pretenses.

Here, as the facts indicated in the brief, a client managed to take some money from Dade Federal Savings and Loan by and with their consent with an artificial trick.

That is, he altered a check which was sort of obvious had they looked at it and took $10,000 from this account which he created in his own name.

The check was drawn to him.

It was done totally by mistake on behalf of the bank.

Basically what we have--

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Allman, Daytona wasn't the drawee of the check either, was it?

Roy W. Allman:

--No, Dade Federal Savings and Loan.

It was a check which he somehow came into possession of, altered the deposit number on the back, i.e., put his account number after scratching out somebody else's and put it in an account that he created at Dade Federal Savings and Loan.

William H. Rehnquist:

The check wasn't drawn on Dade Federal Savings and Loan?

Roy W. Allman:

No, it was not.

It was drawn through somebody else for deposit to some account of the person whose check it was.

Basically, he got the bank involved through the bank's mistake.

It is my position in reading the statute and it has created an ambiguity.

It has got the Courts of Appeal... I think it is five to four now... construing this statute both narrowly and broadly.

The bank robbery statute which in 1934 was specifically limited to bank robbery amended in 1937 to include the terms 1937 interpreted and argued by the government that, in fact, this covered only common law larceny.

So the position now... The former Fifth Circuit now the Eleventh first went along with my arguments in my brief then en banc reversed itself and took the broad position that 2113(b) covered the crime of false pretense.

The reason all this has come about is the way this Congress drew the statute.

The statute was drawn as follows: It indicated that you take and carry away, steal, or purloin, words that are not necessarily defined specifically at common law but are in fact defined now generically.

But in 1934, 1937 were contemplated in the common law sense.

What has happened is this.

In 1934 a broad bank robbery statute in dual form was submitted to the House Judiciary Committee.

The Committee considered this bill and specifically, specifically rejected the aspects of the bill that covered crimes of false pretense, embezzlement and other crimes by trick or consensual takings and restricted it to the forceful robbery concept.

Thus, the title of the Act, the text of the bill and the thrust of the situation in 1934 with the gangster-style bank robberies going on.

Subsequently, apparently in briefly reading the Act the prosecutors have brought prosecutions of people who take money from banks in various types of ways, false checks, forgeries, false pretenses, trick, deceipt, fraud, et cetera.

Four districts have gone along with this.

Four districts have not.