United States v. Helstoski

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Southeastern Community College

DOCKET NO.: 78-349
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 442 US 477 (1979)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1979

Morton Stavis - for respondent
Stanley M.Brand -
Wade H. McCree, Jr. -

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Helstoski

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1979 in United States v. Helstoski

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in Number 349, United States against Helstoski and the consolidated case.

Mr. Stavis, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Morton Stavis:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

There are two cases here and the 546, our petition, Number 349 of the Solicitor General's petition, the facts in both cases are quite simple.

546 which I will deal with first involve the jurisdiction of the District Court to try this indictment.

And the facts there obviously the indictment itself which charges a member of Congress with taking money and conspiring to take money by introducing bills in Congress, bills which the indictment charges were in fact introduced, and the bills as specifically identified in the indictment.

It is plain from the face of the indictment that the grand jury which found it heard, considered and relied upon proof of the performance of legislative acts.

And while it is not clear from the face of the indictment, it is established in the opinion of Judge Meanor and undisputed that's the indicting grand jury, as the grand jury which handed down this indictment received proofs of the performance of legislative act from the United States attorney not from Mr. Helstoski.

It is also clear and undisputed that while Mr. Helstoski gave legislative materials to earlier grand juries, not the indicting grand jury, he had no reason to believe at the time that he gave such materials that he was the target of the grand jury, and in fact somebody else was thereafter indicted, tried and convicted.

Byron R. White:

Of course it wouldn't make any difference for your theory if he had, would it?

Morton Stavis:

If he was a target?

Byron R. White:

If he was aware that he was a --

Potter Stewart:

I knew he was.

Morton Stavis:

It -- to our fundamental theory, it doesn't.

Potter Stewart:

Might have something to do with the waiver.

Morton Stavis:

I don't think it has anything to do with waiver either, but I agree that if our theory is correct that this is a jurisdictional allocation then it wouldn't make any difference at all.

Warren E. Burger:

Who was the other person under inquiry, another member of Congress?

Morton Stavis:

No, no somebody who had been employed by the Congressmen some eight years previously, was not then employed and hadn't been employed for many, many years.

Now, our position in 546 is, and you put your finger right on it, that the Court had no jurisdiction to try this indictment.

And if the Court agrees with us and that of course, it doesn't have to reach the evidentiary issues which were involved in 349.

Now, I'm not going to attempt to match the eloquence of this Court and its eight opinions dealing with the Speech and the Debate Clause and review or recant the history of that clause in its meaning in England and in United States.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Stavis, are you going to get it all to the appealability of Judge Meanor's order by the Government?

I noticed that you attacked it in the Third Circuit but neither party apparently contest it here.

It would seem to me that it is not open and shut that that was an appealable order.

Morton Stavis:

Well, I -- we -- in the Third Circuit, we certainly didn't believe that it was an appealable order.

We moved to dismiss before the Third Circuit on those grounds.

The Third Circuit denied our motion.

I must confess that we did not cross-petition on that particular issue, but it may very well be appropriate for the Court to address that question on its own motion because --

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, we have jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals opinion -- judgment only if it was properly in the Court of Appeals.

Morton Stavis:

I don't think this matter is properly in the Court of Appeals.