United States v. Rodgers

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida - Dade County

DOCKET NO.: 83-620
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 466 US 475 (1984)
ARGUED: Mar 27, 1984
DECIDED: Apr 30, 1984

Albert N. Moskowitz - on behalf of Respondent
Barbara E. Etkind - on behalf of Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Rodgers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 27, 1984 in United States v. Rodgers

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in United States against Rodgers.

Ms. Etkind, I think you may proceed when you're ready.

Barbara E. Etkind:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here on the petition of the United States to review a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Like the preceding case, this case too involves the construction of 18 U.S.C. 1001.

The facts are not in dispute.

In early June 1982, Respondent telephoned the Kansas City, Missouri, office of the FBI and reported that his wife had been kidnapped.

The FBI spent more than 100 agent hours investigating the reported kidnapping, only to determine that Respondent's wife had left him voluntarily.

On June 13th, 1982, Respondent contacted the Kansas City office of the Secret Service and reported that his estranged girl friend, actually his wife, was involved in a plot to assassinate the President.

The Secret Service spent more than 150 hours investigating this report and finally located Respondent's wife in Phoenix, Arizona.

She denied that she had been kidnapped, that she had joined any assassination plot, or that she had ever threatened the President in any way.

Rather, she explained, she had left the Kansas City area in order to get away from Respondent.

Respondent subsequently confessed that he had made these false reports to the federal agencies in order to induce them to help locate his wife.

As a result of these acts, Respondent was charged with two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, which prohibits the knowing and willful making of any false statement

"in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States. "

The district court dismissed the indictment, however, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, on the strength of the Court of Appeals' prior decision in Friedman versus United States.

In that case, the Eighth Circuit had held that the investigatory jurisdiction possessed by the FBI is not the sort of jurisdiction that Congress contemplated when it used the word 1001.

Rather, the Court of Appeals held that Congress used that word in Section 1001 in the restrictive sense of the power to make monetary awards, grant governmental privileges, or promulgate binding administrative and regulatory determinations.

As both the Second and the Fifth Circuits have already recognized, there is absolutely no basis for the Eighth Circuit's restrictive construction of this statute.

This Court has noted on several occasions that Congress spoke in broad language in Section 1001, making it a crime in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States to make any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations.

And the Court has specifically counseled against narrowing this broad language by construction.

In particular, there is no indication that the word "jurisdiction" was intended to distinguish among the nature of governmental functions.

In United States against Gilliland, the Court explained that the purpose of Section 1001 is to protect the authorized functions of governmental departments and agencies.

The "matter within the jurisdiction" language thus was intended only to differentiate between matters constituting the official authorized functions of the department or agency involved, no matter what the nature of those functions, and matters outside the business of that body.

This construction follows naturally from the fact that the statute encompasses any department or agency of the United States, without reference to the nature of the jurisdiction possessed by the department or agency.

But notwithstanding this all-inclusive sweep of the statutory language, the Eighth Circuit's construction would virtually leave the FBI and the Secret Service out of the protection of the statute.

The theoretical distinction that the Eighth Circuit and Respondent have attempted to draw between action that finally disposes of a problem and other types of action does not hold up.

Action by regulatory agencies, which the Court of Appeals and Respondent concede is within the reach of the statute, frequently does not finally dispose of a problem, because such administrative action is almost always subject to judicial review.

By contrast, when the FBI and the Department of Justice determine, on the basis of an exercise of investigatory jurisdiction, that criminal prosecution is not warranted, that determination is not reviewable.

Indeed, even the narrowest definition of jurisdiction includes the power of the courts to decide the cases pending before them.