United States v. Green

PETITIONER: United States

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)

ARGUED: Feb 27, 1956
DECIDED: Mar 26, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Green

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1956 in United States v. Green

Earl Warren:

Mr. Davis.

Oscar H. Davis:

May it please the Court.

This case is here on direct appeal to this Court from the District Court in the Southern District of Illinois under the Criminal Appeal Act.

Under that section of the Criminal Appeals Act which provides for a direct review here of a decision of a District Court arresting and judgment of conviction for insufficiency of indictment, where the decision of the District Court rest upon the construction for the validity of the statute upon which the indictment is found.

The statute, upon which the indictment in this case has found it, is the Hobbs Act which was passed by Congress in July 1946.

And in general it prohibits and punishes extortion and robbery affecting interstate commerce, accomplished by force and violence and wrongfully induced fear.

The facts of the case on the record which is before this Court are not complicated.

An indictment was brought forth by the grand jury in nine counts against two appellees, Jack Green and Local 397 of labor's union.

We are concerned here with only the first two of those accounts because the District Attorney elected to go forward only on four counts and the jury acquitted on two counts.

Now, the counts upon which we are -- with which we're concerned her are accounts one and two appearing at the very beginning of the record, pages one and two.

And what they charge is, that these two defendants violated the Hobbs Act by attempting to extort and by force and violence attempted an actual force and violence and fear.

Attempted to extort from Government contractors engaged in work affecting interstate commerce, property of these Government contractors in the form of wages for imposed, fictitious, superfluous and unnecessary labor -- labor of person's called “swampers”, common laborers called “swampers” who were -- according to the indictment to be employed in connection with equipment being operated by the contractors on these Government projects.

Swampers, I understand, are supernumeraries, common laborers who are sometimes employed in connection with heavy equipment, most generally for going ahead of the equipment to tell the operator of the equipment whether there are holes which he ought to avoid, and also, to take out branches, twigs and other obstacles which are on his way.

Now the -- as I have said, there was an actual trial on this case that lasted for about 10 days.

The District Attorney elected to go forward only on four charges, counts of the indictment, the jury convicted only on the first two.

After the conviction, the defendants made a motion for an arrest of judgment.

They also made a motion for a new trial and a motion for a judgment of acquittal.

Now, the motion for a judgment of acquittal was denied by the District Judge and the motion for a new trial was denied by the District Judge.

And the motion for arrest of judgment was granted on two grounds only and the first ground was that the Hobbs Act did not cover the -- a crime which was charged in the indictment.

And the second ground was that if it did, if the Hobbs Act did cover that -- that type of crime, then the statute was -- would probably be unconstitutional.

And I stressed, that the District Judge denied the motion in respect to other grounds which the appellees had raised below and he also denied a motion for judgment of acquittal and for new trial.

And so, the cases here under the criminal --

Do you consider there's any ambiguity in the record at all, as to whether he went on the indictment only or whether it was a sort of a combination of indictment evidence?

Oscar H. Davis:

No, Mr Justice Harlan, we don't think there is any ambiguity and we think that issue was -- hasn't resolved already in this Court.

Because at the very beginning when the Government filed this notice to appeal and jurisdictional statement, a motion to dismiss was made which the Court denied implicitly by noting probable jurisdiction, and the Court did not ask for discussion of its jurisdiction further.

And so, of course --

Felix Frankfurter:

Probable means the question is may be over.

Oscar H. Davis:


But the Court did not ask for further discussion.

We have not --