Brown v. United States

PETITIONER: Emanuel Brown
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 359 US 41 (1959)
ARGUED: Oct 16, 1958
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1959
GRANTED: Apr 07, 1958

Mr John F. Davis - for the respondent
Myron L. Shapiro - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Emanuel Brown was a witness at a federal grand jury investigation into possible violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Act (FMCA). Brown refused to answer questions asked by the grand jury, invoking the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. The district judge ordered Brown to answer the questions, telling him that the FMCA provided immunity against any prosecution that might arise from Brown’s testimony. Brown still refused to answer. After several failed attempts to make Brown answer the questions, the judge held him in contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.


Did the district court judge abuse his discretion when he sentenced Brown to 15 months in prison?

Media for Brown v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1958 (Part 2) in Brown v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1958 (Part 1) in Brown v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 4, Emanuel Brown, petitioner, versus United States of America.

Mr. Shapiro.

Myron L. Shapiro:

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

This is certiorari to review the conviction of the petitioner under Rule 42 (a) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure for refusing to answer certain questions before a judge and grand jury.

The petitioner was sentenced to 15 months and the matter and was allowed on bail by the Circuit -- by United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The issues in this case are one, whether under Section 305 (d) of the Motor Carrier's Act, the petitioner obtained immunity if he testify before the grand jury.

Two; whether the immunity, if it existed, was coextensive with the privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and three, whether the procedure followed here, resulting in his conviction of criminal contempt under Rule 42 (a) was valid.

Fourth, whether the sentence of 15 months was unreasonable and abuse of judicial discretion and cruel an unusual punishment.

This man has been out on bail?

Myron L. Shapiro:

Yes Judge -- Mr. Justice Harlan.

Now, eight days rather, he served eight days before United States Court of Appeals released him on bail.

The petitioner is associated with a garment, dress garment manufacturing company in New York City, known as Young Tempo Inc.

He's also associated with another dress manufacturing company known as Acme Dress Company which is located in Midvale, New Jersey.

There is another company known as T & R Cutting or T & R Trucking Company, I shall refer to it as T & R Trucking, which transports materials and dresses to and from Young Tempo in New York and to in from Acme Dress Company in New Jersey.

Now, this company is nominally owned by a man named Theodore Reish or Teddy Ray.

The Government's information is, as the record shows, that the real owner of T & R Trucking is one John Dioguardi or Johnny Dio, a notorious person in New York State or New York City.

In this case, the petitioner, for a number of times, had appeared before two grand juries in the Southern District pursuant to subpoena.

The first appearance was in connection with the location of Teddy Ray in the (Inaudible) obstruction of justice case.

The other appearances, which we computed to be about 10 or 11 times, were in connection with the general rakecteering investigation then going on in the Southern District of New York, particularly directed to the garment trucking industry.

At those times, the petitioner when appeared, mainly claimed his privilege against self-incrimination, although he did give some testimony.

In March of 1957, the Assistant United States Attorney who had been handling this matter from the inception called petitioner's counsel, that is myself, to his office in the courthouse and informed me that they had decided to institute an investigation under the Motor Carrier's Act and that under Section 305 (d) and Section 46 of the original Interstate Commerce Act, immunity would apply and that therefore, petitioner would not have his privilege and refuse -- and could not refuse to testify.

There is no immunity statute (Inaudible)

Myron L. Shapiro:

No sir.

The petitioner was served with the subpoena which called upon him to appear personally before the grand jury and he appeared on April 5th, 1957 accompanied by counsel, and throughout the proceedings I may say counsel remained in the anteroom with the grand jury and the petitioner was permitted to consult with counsel during the grand jury proceedings.

The petitioner was asked, in the grand jury proceedings on April 5th, a number of questions which appeared on page 6 of petitioners brief here, all of which seriatum and together I would say, he refused to answer on the ground that it might tend to incriminate him.

He also refused to answer these questions after he had consulted with counsel.

The grand jury then directed him to -- down to room 318, the criminal part of the Southern District, where Judge Levet was presiding and there the grand jury was present along with the Assistant United States Attorney, petitioner and his counsel and Judge Levet of course.

The Judge was adviced that the proceedings then to be had were the efforts of the grand jury to secure the aid and assistance of the Court in obtaining testimony from petitioner.

It is clear from the record that the Assistant United States Attorney had, in some colloquy of the record, indicated that this was the only hearing that petitioner would have.

Petitioner's counsel requested a notice and an opportunity to prepare and an adjournment for that purpose which was overruled.