LOCATION: Shell Lake, Wisconsin
DOCKET NO.: 81-1120
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 460 US 752 (1983)
ARGUED: Jan 18, 1983
DECIDED: Apr 19, 1983
Joseph F. Harbison, III - for respondents
Joseph H. Harbison, III - on behalf of the Respondent
Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of the Petitioners
Facts of the case
Media for United States v. RylanderAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 18, 1983 in United States v. Rylander
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 19, 1983 in United States v. Rylander
William H. Rehnquist:
The second of the cases is the United States against Rylander which comes from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
This case began when the Internal Revenue Service summoned Rylander to turnover certain records containing two corporations of which Rylander was the president.
Rylander failed to comply with the summons and the Federal District Court issued an enforcement order demanding compliance.
Ultimately, the District Court found Rylander in civil contempt and ordered that he be jailed until he turned over the records.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.
The Court agreed with the District Court that the defendant in a contempt proceeding normally has the burden to produce evidence in support of a claim, but the Court of Appeals found that where the defendant like Rylander had asserted both a lack of possession and the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination the burden was moved back to the Government to show that the defendant posses the record.
In an opinion filed today, we reverse the Court of Appeals.
A court order enforcing an Internal Revenue Service summons to produce records gives raise to a presumption that a defendant in a contempt proceeding still possesses the records.
To overcome this presumption, the defendant has the burden of coming forth with evidence showing a lack of present possession.
And the defendant cannot meet this burden by asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege.
While the privilege may prevent the Court from forcing the defendant to answer questions put by the Court or by the government the privilege is not a substitute for relevant evidence.
Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion.