United States v. Procter & Gamble Company

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Procter & Gamble Company
LOCATION: Hazlehurst Manufacturing Company

DOCKET NO.: 51
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 356 US 677 (1958)
ARGUED: Apr 28, 1958
DECIDED: Jun 02, 1958

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Procter & Gamble Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1958 (Part 2) in United States v. Procter & Gamble Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 28, 1958 (Part 1) in United States v. Procter & Gamble Company

Earl Warren:

United States of America, Appellant, versus The Procter and Gamble Company, et al.

Mr. Bicks.

Robert A. Bicks:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

The United States appealed from the New Jersey District Court's dismissal of its antitrust civil complaint.

The complaint had alleged violations of the Sherman Act, Sections 1 and 2 and named these defendants three major soap concern, Proctor and Gamble, Colgate, and Lever Brothers, as well as the trade association to which all three belong.

The District Court's dismissal in turn, stamped on the fact that the United States did not turn over to the civil defendants the complete grand jury transcript of all testimony.

Whether or not relevant to the civil case, by all witnesses, whether or not to appear in the civil case, who had testified before a grand jury conducting criminal investigation into the same soap and synthetic detergent industry.

The prime issue on --

Earl Warren:

Do you make -- do you make a distinction between the -- the request for the entire transcript and just a part of it?

I noticed you emphasized that the entire transcript.

Now, would -- would the issue be same if they -- if they asked for less?

Robert A. Bicks:

Yes, we do make a decision, Mr. Chief Justice.

Earl Warren:

Oh, that's all that you've asked.

Robert A. Bicks:

The reason we do is that our basic position is that in each particular case, a demand to pierce if you will or cast aside the traditional secrecy of the grand jury.

I must depend in each instance on a delicate balance between on the one hand, those policy of the grand jury secrecy designed to protect the integrity of the grand jury and on the other, the need of a particular civil defendant for a particularly be a grand jury testimony for a particular purpose.

Felix Frankfurter:

You also emphasized whether relevant or not.

You said that twice, is that initially here, too?

Robert A. Bicks:

I would think it is, Mr. Justice Frankfurter.

Felix Frankfurter:

Would you come to that in good time?

Robert A. Bicks:

I will.

Felix Frankfurter:

In other words, I infer from that, that you -- in part of this, the context is that what they asked was not relevant and that the Court -- that disclosure must be made whether relevant or not to this civil litigation, is that right?

Robert A. Bicks:

Yes, sir, it is.

Felix Frankfurter:

All right.

Robert A. Bicks:

The issue on this appeal then is what kind of showing of good cause within the meaning of Rule 34, must a civil defendant make out to warrant blanket production of the entire transcript of a grand jury that have been discharged without returning an indictment, some two-and-half weeks before the civil complaint was filed --

Felix Frankfurter:

May I -- may I break (Inaudible) interfering with your argument.

Does the record which I have not studied, does the record make clear that there was a contest below on this issue, that they're asking for something that wasn't relevant to the issues in this civil suit and the Court gave a direction on the assumption.

It doesn't matter whether what they ask is relevant or not?

Robert A. Bicks:

That issue was not raised below, Mr. Chief -- Mr. Justice Frankfurter.

The court below assumed that because the Government was concededly using the grand jury transcripts and had used it to prepare its civil case, that a substantial portion of the transcript at least would be useful to the fact --

Felix Frankfurter:

Was there any suggestion by the Government below that if a showing is made or reasonable basis is laid for inferring relevance that then disclosure would be made because on the basis of what you said it seems to me where it may well be heading into an abstract argument here?