United States v. R. Enterprises, Inc.

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: R. Enterprises, Inc.
LOCATION: Johnson Controls, Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 89-1436
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 498 US 292 (1991)
ARGUED: Oct 29, 1990
DECIDED: Jan 22, 1991

ADVOCATES:
Herald Price Fahringer - on behalf of the Respondents
William C. Bryson - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. R. Enterprises, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 29, 1990 in United States v. R. Enterprises, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 22, 1991 in United States v. R. Enterprises, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The first case 89-1436 is United States against R. Enterprises, Inc.

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In early 1988, a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a series of subpoenas to respondents, R. Enterprises, Inc. and MFR Court Street Books, seeking a variety of corporate books and records in connection with an investigation of interstate transportation of obscene materials.

The respondents moved to quash the subpoenas arguing that they called for their production of materials irrelevant to the grand jury’s investigation, and that enforcement of the subpoenas would likely infringe First Amendment rights.

The District Court denied the respondents’ motion to quash, but the Court of Appeals reversed holding that the government must show relevancy, admissibility at trial, and specificity in order to enforce a grand jury subpoena.

That court concluded that the subpoena’s issued here failed to meet a requirement that any documents subpoenaed must be admissible as evidence at trial.

In the opinion filed today, we reverse and hold that the Court of Appeals applied an improper standard under Rule 17(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure or evaluating the grand jury subpoenas issued to the respondents.

Since the grand jury subpoena is presumed to be reasonable, the burden of showing otherwise is on the recipient seeking to avoid compliance.

Whereas here, the grand jury subpoena is challenged on relevancy grounds, the motion to quash must be denied unless the District Court determines there is no reasonable possibility that the category of materials the government seeks will produce information relevant to the general subject of the grand jury’s investigation.

The District Court properly concluded that there was a reasonable possibility that the respondents’ business records would produce information relevant to the grand jury’s investigation and to the interstate transportation of obscene materials.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Justice Scalia has joined in all but part 3(b) of the opinion.

Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment in which Justices Marshall and Blackmun have joined.