Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snepp v. United States case brief

Snepp v. United States case brief summary
444 U.S. 507 (1980)

Petitioner former CIA agent challenged the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which held that an agreement he signed stating that he would submit any book he attempts to publish beforehand for clearance was invalid. Respondent United States challenged portion of the decision that struck down the imposition of a constructive trust over future profits derived from petitioner's book.

Petitioner, former CIA agent, signed at time of employment, an agreement not to publish or disclose any information without preclearance from respondent Central Intelligence Agency. Upon petitioner's retirement from the CIA, petitioner again signed another non-disclosure agreement. Thereafter, petitioner published a book, detailing non-classified CIA activities in South Vietnam, without submitting it to the CIA for prepublication review. Respondent sued under the agreement to force petitioner to pay damages. Petitioner objected, claiming that the agreement was invalid, and that at most, he was required to pay only nominal damages.

  • The court held that the agreement petitioner signed was valid and enforceable to ensure the protection and defense of the United States. 
  • The court also held that a constructive trust over all future profits gained by petitioner was permissible.

The court affirmed and reversed in part and remanded the decision of the lower court. The court held that petitioner's agreement with respondent was enforceable and that a constructive trust would be imposed over all future profits derived from petitioner's work for the benefit of respondent.

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