Maness v. Meyers

PETITIONER:Michael Anthony Maness
RESPONDENT:The Honorable James R. Meyers
LOCATION:169th Judicial District Court of Texas

DOCKET NO.: 73-689
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: State trial court

CITATION: 419 US 449 (1975)
ARGUED: Oct 22, 1974
DECIDED: Jan 15, 1975
GRANTED: Apr 15, 1974

Joe B. Dibrell, Jr. – for respondent
William F. Walsh – for petitioner

Facts of the case

Michael Maness, a lawyer, represented a client convicted of selling obscene magazines in violation of a city ordinance. The city attorney requested a subpoena to produce 52 such magazines in order to obtain an injunction to prevent their further sale. Maness advised his client not to produce the magazines and invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The judge ordered the production of the magazines, accepting the city clerk’s argument that the Fifth Amendment privilege did not apply in a civil proceeding. When Maness’ client still refused to produce the magazines, the judge held Maness and his client in contempt of court and sentenced them to 10 days in jail and a $200 fine.

Another state district judge reviewed and affirmed the contempt conviction, but changed the penalty to a $500 fine and no jail time. The Texas appeals courts and the Supreme Court of Texas refused to review the judgment. Maness filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of himself and his client in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, which granted the petition. The district court noted that civil and criminal charges in this case would arise under the same Texas statute, so the Fifth Amendment applied. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held its judgment pending Supreme Court review of the contempt conviction.


Can an attorney be held in contempt of court for counseling his client, in good faith, to refuse to produce evidence the attorney feels may incriminate the client?

Media for Maness v. Meyers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 22, 1974 in Maness v. Meyers

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 15, 1975 in Maness v. Meyers

Warren E. Burger:

I have the judgment and opinion of the Court to announce in No. 73-689, Maness against Meyers.

And for reasons stated in an opinion filed today, the judgment of the judicial District Court of Bell County, Texas is reversed.

Mr. Justice Stewart with whom Mr. Justice Blackmun joined filed an opinion concurring in the result and Mr. Justice White filed an opinion, a separate opinion concurring in the result.