Campbell v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Beaumont Mills

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 373 US 487 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1963
DECIDED: May 27, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Campbell v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1963 in Campbell v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 631, Alvin R. Campbell et al., Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Louison.

Melvin S. Louison:

Mr. Chief Justice, Honorable Justices.

As you know in this situation, may it please the Court, this particular case has been the subject of two District Court opinions, three opinions of the Court of Appeals and one prior opinion of this Court.

The case is entirely one involving the scope and extent as well as the interpretation of the so-called Jencks statute, which is 18 United States Code, Section 3500.

Now, the facts of this case will work into the law as it is discussed by myself and my colleague, Mr. O'Donnell, but I wish to begin by showing the diverse positions in this case and arguing the -- of course, the position of the petitioners.

In the first instance, we have the Palermo decision which was followed by the first Campbell case in which this Court stated that to that extent, meaning the extent as limited by the Jencks statute, and I shall refer to it as the Jencks statute, to that extent as the legislative history makes clear that Jencks Act reaffirms our holding in Jencks versus United States that the defendant on trial in a federal criminal prosecution is entitled for impeachment purposes to relevant and competent statements of a Government witness in possession of the Government touching the events or activities as to which the defend -- the witness has testified at the trial.

Then it goes on to say that the command of the statute is thus designed to further the fair and just administration of criminal justice.

Now, that is followed by Judge Wyzanski in the Federal District Court stating, “With reference this second remand going back to the United States Court of Appeals that that Court has still seized of the appeal.

Its judges are as mindful as I that at the root of this case is not a mere school master's problem of construing the ambiguous language of a legislature, but the protection of the fundamental right of any defendant in a criminal case to impeach a witness by a substantially verbatim statement he previously made and which he has adopted and approved.

Seldom indeed is there such a clear showing as there has been in this case -- as there has been here that Exhibit 3 as a witness' substantially verbatim statement made on the day after his crime, Exhibit 3 of course being the FBI agent's report, the so-called agent summary.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

You mean the Interview Report.

Melvin S. Louison:

The Interview Report, yes, Your Honor.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

That's what we call it, was it in --

Melvin S. Louison:

I think --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

When Campbell was here, we called it the Interview Report.

Melvin S. Louison:

Yes, sir.

It was referred to I think like --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

It's the one that's in the footnote?

Melvin S. Louison:

Yes, it was -- it was footnoted in the official opinion.

I think Mr. Justice Frankfurter referred to it in Palermo was an agent summary but in the --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:


But in this particular case --

Melvin S. Louison:

Yes, sir.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

-- are you talking about that report which we said out verbatim in the footnote in Campbell?

Melvin S. Louison:

Yes, Your Honor.

This was followed by Judge Aldrich in the Court of Appeals stating that, if for any reason that with impeachment material does exist, a defendant is entitle to have the benefit of it, but this is in a sense a windfall rather than the performance of a duty owed.

The word windfall may sound alarming but either there is a duty owed or there is not.

We do not find in the statute any such duty.

This is followed by the statement of the United States Government in its briefs on page 49 that petitioners are incorrect in assuming that 18 U.S.C. 3500 creates a right of discovery.