LOCATION:Interstate Highway 5, approximately 4 miles south of San Clemente
DOCKET NO.: 74-80
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
CITATION: 421 US 117 (1975)
ARGUED: Mar 25, 1975
DECIDED: Apr 28, 1975
David S. Baime – for petitioners
Marvin D. Perskie – for respondent
Media for Kugler v. Helfant
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 28, 1975 in Kugler v. Helfant
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and opinion of the Court in 74-80, Kugler against Helfant and consolidated case 74-277, Helfant against Kugler will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.
These two companion cases are here by reason of the grant of writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Edwin H. Helfant brought this action in a Federal District Court to enjoin the Attorney General of New Jersey and other New Jersey officials from proceeding with the prosecution of an indictment pending against him in that state.
His complaint alleged that he had been coerced into testifying before a state grand jury by the concerted action of a State Deputy Attorney General and members of the New Jersey Supreme Court and that the indictment charging him with obstruction of justice and false swearing had grown out of that coerced testimony.
His complaint further alleged that the significant role played by the members of the New Jersey Supreme Court in coercing his testimony made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial in the state-court system.
The District Court dismissed his complaint on the ground that the principles of the case of Younger against Harris precluded federal intervention in a state criminal proceeding.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed that order and remanded the case to the District Court for a hearing on the merits of Helfant’s request for permanent injunction.
Upon petition of the defendant state officials, the Court of Appeals then set the case for an en banc rehearing.
The full Court of Appeals held that a permanent injunction of the state criminal prosecution would be inappropriate, but, with three judges dissenting, nonetheless reversed the trial court’s order of dismissal.
The Court of Appeals remanded the case for the purpose of an evidentiary hearing in the District Court on Helfant’s charge that his grand jury testimony had been coerced, and for the entry of a declaratory judgment, based upon that hearing, on the question whether Helfant’s grand jury testimony should be admitted into evidence at the state criminal trial.
The District Court was directed to enjoin further proceedings in the state criminal prosecution pending entry of its declaratory judgment.
The state officials filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking review of the Court of Appeals’ remand to the District Court for an evidentiary hearing and declaratory judgment on the issue of coercion.
Helfant filed a cross-petition for a writ of certiorari, challenging the Court of Appeals’ decision that permanent injunctive relief was not warranted.
We granted both petitions to consider the propriety of federal-court intervention in pending state criminal proceedings in the circumstances presented by this case.
For the reasons set out in the written opinion filed today, we hold that the Court of Appeals properly affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of Helfant’s prayer for a permanent injunction but that the Appellate Court was in error in ordering a hearing and declaratory judgment on the issue of the admissibility of his grand jury testimony in a state criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated and the case is remanded to that court with directions to enter a judgment affirming the District Court’s dismissal of the complaint.
Mr. Justice Douglas took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
And Mr. Justice Brennan took no part in its decision.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.