Goldberg v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Georgia State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 74-6293
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 425 US 94 (1976)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1976
DECIDED: Mar 30, 1976

Donald Smaltz - for petitioner
Paul L. Friedman - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Goldberg v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1976 in Goldberg v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 30, 1976 in Goldberg v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and the opinion of the Court in 74-6293, Goldberg against The United States will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

When a government witness concludes his direct testimony at a Federal criminal trial, the Jencks Act requires that the government turnover to defense counsel for impeachment purposes, written statements as defined by the Act, made or adopted an approved before trial by the witness that touch his direct testimony.

As the government at the trial objects that particular writings are not statements within the Act's definition are although otherwise statements contained whether or not touched on in the direct examination.

The objections are to be decided by the trial judge usually in in-camera proceedings out of the presence of the jury.

In this case, the writings claimed to be producible statements, included writings by government lawyers who had conducted extensive interviews with the government's principal witness before the trial.

The trial judge, without examining the writings or conducting any inquiry whether any or all had adopted or approved by the witness, held that the writings were not producible because they constituted the work product of the government lawyers, and were therefore even if otherwise producible statements as defined by the Act not covered by the Act.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, but not on the work product ground.

Rather the Court of Appeals held that in any event, the particular lawyer's writings and notes and other writings involved in this case didn't fit the Act's definition of producible statements.

We reverse.

We hold first that nothing in the language or legislative history of the Jencks Act accepts as a lawyer's work product a statement taken from a witness by a government lawyer rather than by some other government agent, if the statement falls within the definition of a producible statement under the Act and they hold further in the circumstances of this case that the Court of Appeals erred in making the initial determination that the writings in question here were not producible statements under the Act, because under the statute, that's the task in the first instance for the Trial Court.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion filed today with the clerk.

Mr. Justice Stevens joining the Court's opinion has also filed a concurring opinion on which Mr. Justice Stewart joins.

Mr. Justice Powell joined by the Chief Justice has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.