United States v. Rodgers

Facts of the Case

An individual who confessed that he made false reports to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that his wife had been kidnapped, and also to the United States Secret Service that his wife was involved in a plot to kill the President, was charged in a two-count indictment with making false statements to the FBI and the Secret Service in violation of 18 USCS 1001, which made it a crime to knowingly and willfully make a false statement in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States. The accused moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the investigations conducted by the FBI and the Secret Service in connection with his false reports were not matters within the jurisdiction of the respective agencies, as that phrase is used in 1001. The District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted the motion, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, adhering to its decision in a prior case that the phrase within the jurisdiction referred only to the power to make final or binding determinations. The government sought review of the decision.

Question

Does section 7403 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 grant the government the power to order the sale of a home of a delinquent taxpayer, even if a third party has interest in the home as well?

CONCLUSION

Yes. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. delivered the opinion of the 9-0 majority. The Court held section 7403 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 does grant the government power to order the sale of a home itself, even if the delinquent taxpayer is not the only one with interest in the property. However, that power is limited by equitable discretion, which means that the district court should consider a number of different variables including the possible competing prejudices and expectation of the parties involved. The Court also held that, if the home is sold, then the nondelinquent spouse is entitled to a portion of the proceeds because taking away the interest of an innocent third party would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.Justice Harry A. Blackmun delivered an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which he argued that the government has the power to sell property not belonging to an indebted taxpayer, but that it should be determined how far the power can extend. The government does not have the power to sell jointly owned property if the nondelinquent co-owner has a right to ban the sale and continue the possession. In this case, Rodgers had a state-protected right to remain in her home, so the government did not have the power to sell her house.

Case Information

  • Citation: 461 US 677 (1983)
  • Argued: Dec 6, 1982
  • Decided May 31, 1983