Friday, November 15, 2013

United States v. Ballard case brief

United States v. Ballard case brief summary
322 U.S. 78 (1944)

The United States sought review of a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed defendants' convictions for mail fraud.


  • Defendants were convicted of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 88 and 388. 
  • At their trial, the jury was instructed that it was not to determine the truth or falsity of any of defendants' religious beliefs, which were included in correspondence to individuals soliciting both money and participation in their religion. 
  • Rather, the jury was to determine whether defendants had a good faith belief in their religious convictions or whether they lacked a good faith belief in them. 
  • The jury was instructed to acquit the defendants if it found that they had a good faith belief in the religious convictions; otherwise, it was instructed to convict defendants. 
  • On appeal, the appeals court found that in order to prove the offense charged, it was necessary to show that defendants had purposely set forth at least some false convictions. 
  • The government appealed, contending that the good faith test used by the jury was appropriate. 
The Court found that the First Amendment safeguarded one's religious beliefs and consequently forbade one's conviction for false religious views.


The Court reversed the judgment, which vacated defendants' convictions for mail fraud, and remanded the case to the appeals court for further proceedings.

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