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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 165868 Find in a Library
Title: Supreme Court's Bipolar Approach to the Interpretation of 18 U.S.C. 1503 and 18 U.S.C. 2232(c)
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:86  Issue:4  Dated:(Summer 1996)  Pages:1383-1410
Author(s): J K Fitzpatrick
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 28
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This note critiques the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Aguilar, 115 S.Ct. 2357 (1995), which pertained to the limits of the Omnibus Clause of 18 U.S.C. Section 1503 and the limits of 18 U.S.C. Section 2232(c).
Abstract: Section 1503 prohibits a person from endeavoring to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice, and Section 2232(c) prohibits a person from disclosing a government wiretap to the person targeted under the wiretap. The Court held that making false statements to an investigating agent who may or may not testify before a grand jury does not violate the statute. In reaching this conclusion, the Court used the rule of lenity to place a new limit -- the nexus requirement -- on the Omnibus Clause. Under the nexus requirement, a violation of the Omnibus Clause does not occur unless a person's efforts have the "natural and probable" consequences of obstructing justice. Regarding Section 2232(c), the Court held that a person can violate the statute by disclosing an expired wiretap. This note argues that the Court reached the correct conclusions on both statutory questions. The Court, however, should have used different reasoning regarding its interpretation of the Omnibus Clause of Section 1503. The Court should not have used the rule of lenity to place a new limit on the Omnibus Clause. Both the plain language of the Omnibus Clause and prior Supreme Court decisions make it clear that the statute is not violated by making false statements to a person when there is only a mere possibility that the person might testify at a judicial proceeding. 269 footnotes
Main Term(s): US Supreme Court decisions
Index Term(s): Electronic surveillance; Federal Code; Obstruction of justice
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