United States v. Mechanik

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Mechanik
LOCATION: Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

DOCKET NO.: 84-1640
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 475 US 66 (1986)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1985
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1986

ADVOCATES:
Bruce J. Rosen - on behalf of Mechanik and Lill
Mark Irving Levy - on behalf of the United States

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Mechanik

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 1985 in United States v. Mechanik

So how are numbers important?

Mark Irving Levy:

Perhaps just bringing this to the attention of the U.S. Attorneys--

Bruce J. Rosen:

It wasn't through lack of effort that they weren't in there.

The certification requirement wouldn't have helped here because the prosecutor thought he was doing the proper thing.

Well, how are numbers important if you don't have any?

Mark Irving Levy:

--That's probably correct, although it's possible that that would have made him more sensitive to the nature of the rule than he was in this case.

What are you going to compare the numbers to?

Mark Irving Levy:

But I don't think it's necessary that there be a remedy for every good faith violation.

Bruce J. Rosen:

I assume when we compare it to the normal practice of one witness at a time, one prosecutor, in the event an assistant is necessary two prosecutors.

Mark Irving Levy:

The question is whether the system--

Bruce J. Rosen:

But here we are August 10th, and we must put it into the context.

Well, I suppose we don't need the rule, either.

Bruce J. Rosen:

Within an hour of five agents appearing in the grand jury room, this grand jury returned this indictment.

We don't have to have this rule.

Bruce J. Rosen:

We are now left to analyze whether there's a causal relationship between that violation and the return of the indictment.

Mark Irving Levy:

--Well, you don't have to have it, and we think it is quite a technical rule in the end.

Bruce J. Rosen:

If there is no relationship, potentially we may not be available for any redress in this Court.

Mark Irving Levy:

But the rule is designed to ensure that the system works in a particular way.

Bruce J. Rosen:

In addition to the two witnesses which at least the district court and the Court of Appeals and the Government and the defendants in this case have been unable to find another case in recorded history, either of civil law, of criminal law, of any other practice that ever allowed the procedure of calling two witnesses simultaneously.

Mark Irving Levy:

The drafters of the rule thought it was better only to have one witness in the grand jury at a time, and presumably prosecutors in almost every case, in virtually every case, will comply with that and the system will work as the drafters intended.

Bruce J. Rosen:

The logic we hope would appear obvious, because the logic is also embodied in the concept of why we sequester witnesses at trial, to avoid this, to create at least an accountability of what a person says, that later they are accountable.

But if you prevail in the case... and I understand your position.

Bruce J. Rosen:

If somebody testifies we did this or we did that, how later are they accountable?

If you prevail in the case, will the rule be followed in the future?

Bruce J. Rosen:

There is no accountability.

Why would a prosecutor have any motive to follow the rule in the future?

Bruce J. Rosen:

But more importantly, in addition to the two witnesses that testified, on numerous occasions the prosecutor, and as evidenced in the joint appendix, provided information to that grand jury that was part of its considerations in an unsworn, non-testimonial fashion.

Why wouldn't he say, I think I can get my case in a lot faster by getting all four witnesses in at once.

Bruce J. Rosen:

There are numerous instances where the prosecutor, in this instance Assistant U.S. Attorney Hoffman, provided a number of incidents as to who was in communication with the air traffic controller on duty that night at the Kanawha Airport, the definition of third party billings, how we know that Jim Chadwick got a call at his phone because it was a collect call, and explaining to the grand jury the difference between collect calls and third party billing.

Mark Irving Levy:

I don't think there's any reason to assume, even apart from coercive remedy, that prosecutors will routinely violate or ignore the requirements of the rule.