Elkins v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Fleetwood Paving Co.

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

CITATION: 364 US 206 (1960)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1960 / Mar 29, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Elkins v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1960 in Elkins v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1960 in Elkins v. United States

Earl Warren:

James Butler Elkins and Raymond Frederick Clark, Petitioners, versus United States.

Mr. Wilkey, you may continue your arguments.

Malcolm Richard Wilkey:

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

With permission of the Court, in my remaining time, I wish to devote it principally to a discussion of the silver platter doctrine, that is the question of whether or not, a rigid rule of exclusion in the federal courts should be adopted where other than federal officers are concerned.

That was the ground of decision in the state -- in the Federal District Court.

That was the ground on which the United States Attorney proceeded in presenting the case on the motion to suppress evidence in the federal court.

And we submit that on the basis of the facts in this record here, this record in Elkins demonstrates the wisdom of such a procedure on the part of the United States Attorney, and there was such a ruling on the part of the United States District Judge.

There's additional graph --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Wilkey, before you -- before you get into your argument, well, this -- will you include in it the question as to whether this was sufficient constitutionally under federal law.

You are going -- yesterday you said you were going to discuss that.

As I -- as I understood you, you weren't going to rely on the fact that under state law, it was -- the affidavit was sufficient.

You said you felt that under federal law, it was and that you would discuss it, will -- will you get to that?

Malcolm Richard Wilkey:

Yes, Mr. Chief Justice.

Earl Warren:

Yes, thank you.

That's all I want to know.

Malcolm Richard Wilkey:

I intend to get to that.

Earl Warren:

In -- in your own time.

Malcolm Richard Wilkey:

Thank you.

And there's an additional ground relied on by the Court of Appeals, which I wish to discuss and that is the validity of the federal warrant for the search and which -- by which the tapes came into the custody of the federal court.

That was an additional ground which we submit all of the evidence was fully developed in the trial court and the Circuit Court relied upon that in addition to the silver platter doctrine.

Now, in connection with that, I should like to post for the Court's consideration, the situation which confronted the federal officers at the time of the state seizures.

The FBI agent testified that he learned of these seizures by reading the newspapers, the following morning.

Portions of the tapes were printed in the newspapers.

It was apparent that if all of the accounts were true, there existed a federal violation.

Following up this information coming to him, he went over to the state officers and he listened to some -- to one of the tapes that I believe was on Tuesday morning and the tape was taken from him to be presented down below to the state grand jury.

The United States of Attorney was aware of this possible federal violation.

Now, the federal agent had heard a knock on that one tape and he had seen the notes accompanying the tape indicating a synopsis of the tape, the names of the parties to the conversations, and year at that time or later, the FBI agent talked to one of the parties Langley and learned that he had not given any consent to the interception of these messages.

Now, on the basis of that, it was public knowledge, and that there was a federal violation.And it was knowledge which the U.S. Attorney and the FBI agents have.

So the tapes wound up in a state of limbo.

They were not suppressed.