Miner v. Atlass

LOCATION: Fleetwood Paving Co.

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

CITATION: 363 US 641 (1960)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Miner v. Atlass

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1960 in Miner v. Atlass

Earl Warren:

Number 156, Honorable Julius H. Miner and Honorable Edwin A. Robson, Petitioners, versus H. Leslie Atlass.

Mr. Liebenson, you may now proceed.

Harold A. Liebenson:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please this Honorable Court.

This is a case in admiralty.

It arose out of an occurrence in October 26, 1956, where two men were drowned in the Detroit Harbor Basin, who were alleged as crewmen of a yacht known as Sis, while returning from their shore leave.

Each men left a wife and three children, and the only persons present at the scene of this occurrence were members of the crew or members who were employees of the owner of the yacht.

In an effort to get information, the plaintiff in this case filed a motion for to -- for discovery depositions as to one of the parties and two or three of the employees.

The lower court granted said motion and I must point out that there was a local admiralty rule in this Court and the respondent then took -- sought a mandamus and prohibition writ in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to prevent the taking of said depositions, oral and pretrial for discovery purposes only and Judge Lynn Parkinson wrote a -- an opinion, holding that the writ of prohibition and mandamus should issue, which was issued, preventing the taking of the oral discovery depositions and further held that the local Admiralty Rule for this District, Rule 32 was void in that it exceeded the power of the local court.

This Court granted certiorari.

I -- I might point out one other thing.

This is an admiralty because of a limitation action.

Previous to the limitation action being filed, a Jones Act suit was filed by one of the deceased -- decedent's representatives and the -- then the limitation action was filed and an injunction was issued preventing the proceeding under the Jones Act.

So that the question we have is whether or not, oral pretrial discovery depositions are permissible in an admiralty case.

The question is only -- is one of procedure but it affects the whole of the admiralty bar because it would -- if the Court so holds in accordance with the Seventh Circuit, it will mean that it's going to change the practice and procedure of the admiralty lawyers throughout the country.

I say this because the following district courts in the following states have similar admiralty rule -- local Admiralty Rules pertaining to depositions, pretrial depositions, as similar to the one we have in our State, New York, Pennsylvania --

Felix Frankfurter:

May I interrupt?

Harold A. Liebenson:

Yes, sir.

Felix Frankfurter:

Is that Southern District of New York?

Harold A. Liebenson:

Both the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York have Rule 32 sir as to dep -- oral pretrial deposition.

Felix Frankfurter:

Both the Southern --

Harold A. Liebenson:

And the Eastern.

Felix Frankfurter:

Whether the -- was that rule before the Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit in Judge Clark's opinion?

Harold A. Liebenson:

In the Mercado case?

Felix Frankfurter:


Harold A. Liebenson:

No, sir.

He mentioned that it wasn't discussed.

This all came after the -- the New York rules, sir, came into effect after the Kelleher case when Judge Kaufman was appointed to the committee to formulate a rule and -- and then the rule and the practice followed thereafter.

Felix Frankfurter:

I'm not sure I understand.

The Mercado case was decided in 1950.

Harold A. Liebenson:

So was the Kelleher if I remember correctly.