Shillitani v. United States

PETITIONER: Shillitani
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: General Petroleum Corporation

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 384 US 364 (1966)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1966
DECIDED: Jun 06, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Shillitani v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1966 in Shillitani v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 412, Salvatore Shillitani, Petitioner versus United States.

Andimo Pappadio, Petitioner versus United States.

Mr. Krieger.

Albert J. Krieger:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Sometime ago, some members of this Court had the opportunity to state and did state that confinement in prison for a period such as two years or 18 months or three years without the intervening process of indictment and trial by jury in a criminal contempt case would corrode our civil liberties.

I believe that that was stated some six years ago and on one instance some seven years ago.

I believe that the situation about which these members of the Court warned has come to pass finally.

Salvatore Shillitani was brought before a grand jury in the Southern District of New York -- asked certain questions, invoked his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, eventually he was granted immunity and persisted in his refusal to testify, once again invoking his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination.

He was directed by one judge, Judge Wyatt to respond.

He failed to respond.

Subsequently, a hearing was held before Judge MacMahon and that the conclusion of the hearing Judge MacMahon sentenced Shillitani to two years in prison and added thereto a rather strange what we can term “purge clause.”

Shillitani was remanded without bail.

Application was made before the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for bail, bail was denied.

He had been remanded on August 10th of 1964, argument before the Court of Appeals was held in November of 1964.

This Court granted certiorari to certain questions in Harris in December of 1964, and finally, in January of 1965, after Shillitani had served some five months, he was finally admitted to bail, very substantial bail.

One of the great problems in his being admitted to bail was that he could not be released until there had been considerable supplication and genuflection and pleading with the Parole Commission.

The Federal Parole Commission had lodged a warrant in Shillitani in the intervening period because in their estimate of the situation, he had been convicted of a felony.

He had a criminal conviction and therefore he had violated his parole.

The two questions upon which this Court granted certiorari, the add mixture of civil and criminal contempt and whether Shillitani had a right to indictment and trial by jury cannot be discussed completely, separately, and apart.

They do interlock -- they do interdigitary.

And the reason they do this is because our very recent history has shown us the development of a new type of prosecution, something which has not existed in our past.

This Court had the opportunity on April 7th of 1964 to state that its research had shown that there were approximately six cases since 1957 in which a sentence of one year or more had been imposed in a criminal contempt case, and that prior to 1957, there were only two.

Since April 7th of 1964, in the Second Circuit alone there had been four cases with sentences of two years or one year.

The real problem posed here is not whether there should be a machinery for obtaining testimonial compulsion.

No one can quarrel that there must be some way to obtain testimony.

The problem seems to rotate around whether there can be imprisonment for as long as two years or if the judge feels otherwise for considerably longer.

For at least as far as Shillitani is concerned, for four times the sentence -- the maximum sentence for a petty offense without the intervening safeguards of indictment and trial by jury.

The results may well be the same after these safeguards have been applied but that is no reason why the safeguards should not be applied.

The Solicitor General, states basically five reasons why the Government does not like jury trials in cases of this sort.

And of course it appears that if a jury trial is good enough, is appropriate -- is a properly appropriate procedure in cases involving murderers, in cases involving spies, in cases involving any and every horrendous crime, it's certainly is an appropriate procedure and can do the right thing in imposing, if need be, a punishment for a failure to testify.