United States v. Shirey

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Calvert’s Tavern

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 359 US 255 (1959)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1959
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Shirey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1959 (Part 1) in United States v. Shirey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1959 (Part 2) in United States v. Shirey

Malcolm Anderson:

May it please the Court.

The one issue that is raised is the desirability of encouraging as a policy in our republican form of government, the contributions to political parties.

This is of course a major problem with both political parties.

It is estimated that as much as $40,000 is needed to elect a Congressman.

If we are to have a representative form of government, we can't limit the representatives as -- the Congressman to persons who are able to afford that, so that we do agree that it is proper to encourage contributions to political parties.

Both major parties have endeavored to broaden the base so that the contributions will come more from the actual person's representatives numerically, but I'm quite sure that neither major party, no matter how great this problem would want to encourage the -- this method of obtaining money for political parties.

In other words, I believe the policy is not applicable where you're -- apply it to a fact situation of selling or buying public office.

And that this was the purpose of Congress setting forth this policy of the country that this is one way in which money is not to be raised for political parties.

Hugo L. Black:

Would that have been the (Inaudible)

Malcolm Anderson:

Then we come and that is true in the broad sense of the term, “thing of value”, we could get down to charitable contributions could possibly be a thing of value to the offeree.

Then, I say, we come into that area where there is a certain amount of faith placed in the processes of the law, and the District Attorney and the judges, and the juries.

I think that perhaps the best illustration of its working, day in and day out isn't the main act where we have a very general provision that any person who takes a female across a state line for immoral purposes and that is a broad term, and yet, as it is used and exercised, it is limited largely to commercialization, the overreaching of children, female children of tender years.

But it is capable of all sorts of interpretations of what is an immoral purpose and for that reason, I say that this falls, not because it would not be a thing of value, but because in the processes in carrying out criminal law, there has to be some faith placed in the offices of the prosecuting judge.

Could you explain the judgment between solicitations that is just in the (Inaudible)

Malcolm Anderson:

Of course, both statutes were passed at the same time and the only language we find is that they were considered together and that they were considered as both aimed at the bad practice of buying and selling offices.

And we believe that it is in the solicitation section as an additional word to define or give color to a thing of value because they anticipated this difficulty arising more specifically with the solicitor.

The solicitor is saying, “If you will make a contribution of $10,000 to the party, I'll support you for this job.”

And then later, the solicitor is saying that this was not the sale of an office but a legitimate political activity and they aimed that section at a specific hazard which they've had testimony on.

Potter Stewart:

Then I think the legislative history that points either direction as to the distinction between the solicitation and the offering in terms of the scope of the coverage?

Malcolm Anderson:

From my reading of the congressional issue, I would say that elected on dead center, they talked generally about this evil of buying and selling offices.

There is no explanation that I could find as to why it was put in one section and not in the other, no discussion of it.

As we point out, this is -- this is not unique in these two sections.

In our brief, we pointed out at least two other instances where in this same chapter, between bribery and graft, that there is a difference in the language used defining thing of value or not defining it but -- run in with it between the person who solicits and the person who offers.

And we think this is just the overall attempt of Congress to anticipate some sort of an offer of a thing of value which could not be specific -- specifically spelled out and be safe to cover the whole area that they wish to cover.

Felix Frankfurter:

There is a strange difference and it's odd to me on a casual reading between the first and second paragraph of 215.

Malcolm Anderson:

Yes, sir.

Felix Frankfurter:

Why -- why both the 214 and the 215 have any money or a thing of value?

But the next and the second solicits and receives any thing of value in consideration agency, a money that's out there altogether.

Malcolm Anderson:

I --

Felix Frankfurter:

Is that being -- is it --