Thursday, November 21, 2013

United States v. Aguilar case brief

United States v. Aguilar case brief summary
515 U.S. 593 (1995)

Respondent judge was convicted of illegally disclosing a wiretap in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2232(c) and endeavoring to obstruct the due administration of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1503. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, en banc, reversed both convictions. The Government sought review and the Court granted certiorari.

The Government argued that the judge intended to obstruct justice by lying to a federal agent about his knowledge of the disclosure of a wiretap and violated 18 U.S.C.S. § 2232(c)by disclosing the wiretap even though the authority for the tap had expired.

  • The Court held that the offense under § 2232(c) was complete when the judge disclosed the existence of the wiretap. 
  • The statute was not aimed at interference with the possible interception of information, but rather the disclosure of wiretap orders or applications that may lead to interceptions. 
  • The fact that interception was not possible because of the expiration of the wiretap order was irrelevant. 
  • Additionally, no violation of the judge's First Amendment rights was found. 
  • The reversal of the conviction under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1503 was affirmed because the Government failed to show that the agent to whom the judge lied was an arm of the grand jury. 
  • The agent had not been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and it could not be shown that the false statement would have the natural and probable effect of interfering with the due administration of justice.

The Court affirmed the reversal of the judge's conviction for obstruction of justice. The Court reversed the lower court's en banc decision with regard to the offense of disclosing a wiretap and reinstated the judge's conviction.

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