United States v. Giordano

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Dominic Nicholas Giordano et al.
LOCATION: Giordano’s Residence

DOCKET NO.: 72-1057
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 416 US 505 (1974)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1974
DECIDED: May 13, 1974
GRANTED: Mar 26, 1973

ADVOCATES:
H. Russel Smouse - for respondent
Robert H. Bork - for petitioner

Facts of the case

In October 1970, an Assistant United States Attorney filed an application for a wiretap with a federal judge. According to the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (Act), every application for the interception of wire or oral communications had to be authorized by the Attorney General or by an Assistant Attorney General specifically designated by the Attorney General. The application in this case apparently contained all of the proper authorizations and signatures, was approved, and was used to arrest and charge Dominic Giordano with a drug crime. At Giordano’s pre-trial hearing, it came to light that the Assistant Attorney General had allowed an Executive Assistant in his office to authorize this and other applications. The district court granted Giordano’s motion to suppress the government’s evidence because it had misidentified the approving officer. The government appealed and argued that the court should not have suppressed the evidence because the Assistant Attorney General’s delegation to the Executive Assistant was not inconsistent with the Act and because the government’s conduct did not violate the Constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and held that the Executive Assistant’s approval violated the Act, which required the suppression of the evidence in question.

Question

Is the Attorney General or a designated Assistant Attorney General allowed to delegate the power to authorize wiretap applications to an Executive Assistant?

Media for United States v. Giordano

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1974 in United States v. Giordano

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 13, 1974 in United States v. Giordano

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition of 72-1319, United States against Chavez, 72-1057, United States against.

Giordano, and 72-6160, Mitchell against W. T. Grant Co., will each be announced by Mr. Justice White.

Byron R. White:

The Giordano case number 72-1057 comes here from the Fourth Circuit on certiorari, and Chavez from the Ninth Circuit on -- also on certiorari.

These two cases raise related questions under the Federal Statute, authorizing official wiretapping under a court order.

Under the statute only the Attorney General or an assistant Attorney General, specially authorized by him is permitted to approve an application or a wiretap order.

In the Giordano case, the Attorney General had authorized his executive assistant to approve wiretap applications, in the name of the Attorney General when that officer was absent from the city.

The question is whether that procedure comports with the Act, and if it is not whether the evidence obtained from a wiretap under an order that was so authorized is admissible or inadmissible.

We hold that an application approved in that manner does not comply with the Act, and that evidence obtained from a wiretap under such an order, where the application has been so approved, is admissible in evidence.

The Court of Appeals had arrived at the same conclusion, and so we affirm the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Douglas has filed a concurring opinion in which Mr. Justice Brennan, Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice Marshall has joined.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed an opinion dissenting from part four of the opinion.

He is joined by the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Black and Mr. Justice Rehnquist, otherwise he concurs in the opinion.