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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98491 Find in a Library
Title: Grand Jury - Disclosure of Grand Jury Materials to Government Attorneys for Civil Use Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) - United States v Sells Engineering, Inc, 103 S Ct 3133 (1983)
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:74  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter 1983)  Pages:1425-1445
Author(s): T J Berge
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 21
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In United States v. Sells Engineering, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that attorneys in the Civil Division of the Justice Department may have access to grand jury materials for use in civil suits only if they obtain a court order authorizing such access.
Abstract: Although policies underlying the rule of grand jury secrecy provide strong support for this decision, the Court ignored its own well-established rules of statutory construction in its interpretation of Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which governs the disclosure of grand jury materials. The Court correctly reasoned that automatic access to grand jury materials for civil use would (1) discourage candid grand jury testimony, (2) tempt prosecutors to manipulate the grand jury to elicit evidence for civil use, and (3) subvert congressionally imposed limits on civil discovery powers. Although policy considerations support the majority decision, the Court ignored its own well-established rules of statutory construction in interpreting Rule 6(e). The foremost rule of statutory construction requires courts to give effect to Congress' intent when it enacted a given statute. Another rule of statutory construction is that where courts and other parties have placed a particular construction on the language of a statute for a long period, Congress' failure to express disapproval amounts to legislative sanction of that construction. Under the principles of statutory construction, it is apparent, as the Court dissent maintained, that Congress has intended that all Justice Department attorneys are authorized to use grand jury materials in the full range of their duties. Also, the Court undermined the very goals it sought to advance; it held that when government attorneys seek access to grand jury materials, the need for secrecy is not as strong as when other parties seek access. This means that in obtaining a court order, the government does not have to show as much particularized need for the grand jury materials as do other parties. A total of 127 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Civil proceedings; Confidential records access; Grand juries; US Department of Justice; US Supreme Court decisions
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