Bellis v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: The White House

DOCKET NO.: 73-190
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 417 US 85 (1974)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1974
DECIDED: May 28, 1974

Leonard Sarner - for petitioner
Lawrence G. Wallace - argued the cause for the United States

Facts of the case


Media for Bellis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1974 in Bellis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 28, 1974 in Bellis v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition in 73-190, Bellis against the United States; 73-726, Cooper against Kopke; 72-1382, Rich against the United Stated will be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

In 73-190, Bellis the case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In the case, the petitioner is partner in the small law firm, performing as three partner and six other employees including two other attorneys.

The petitioner was subpoenaed to produce the partnership financial record before federal grand jury.

He refused, relying on what he called his Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrementation.

After hearing, the District Court held, the petitioner could not rely on his personal Fifth Amendment privilege to refuse to produce the records of the partnership.

Petitioner still refused to produce the records.

The District Court held him in contempts, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

We considered that this case is controlled by our decisions which have established that the personal privilege against self incrementation cannot be relied on by the custodian of the records of an organization to justify the refusal to produce the organizational records held in representative capacity.

This rule had been applied to corporations, labor union, other organizational entities, and we no reason and why it should not be applicable to partnerships as well.

While the partnership was small, we find that it did have recognized existence of his own apart from tis individual members and that the petitioner was holding the partnership financial records in a representative capacity.

Accordingly, for the reasons stated more fully in the opinion filed today, we affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Douglas has filed a dissenting opinion.