Monday, December 23, 2013

United States v. Cowan case brief

United States v. Cowan case brief summary
524 F.2d 504 (1975)

Appellant United States challenged the denial of its Fed. R. Crim. P. 48(a) motion to dismiss an indictment against defendants, set for trial, by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, based on a plea bargain. Appellant also challenged the appointment of appellee special prosecutors by the trial court under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1291 and, in the alternative, sought a writ of mandamus to require dismissal.

As a part of a plea bargain with the Watergate Special Prosecution Force that included the dismissal of indictments in a Texas case, defendant A agreed to plead guilty to a single charge filed in the District of Columbia in exchange for his cooperation. Thereafter, defendant A and B's' legal counsel joined appellant United States in a motion, under Fed. R. Crim. P. 48(a), to dismiss the Texas indictments before the district court in accordance with each defendant's plea agreement. The district court denied the motion to dismiss the indictment against defendant A. When the United States filed its notice of intent not to prosecute, the district court appointed private special prosecutors.


  • On appeal, the case was reversed and remanded with directions to sustain the motion to dismiss. 
  • The court concluded that it was within the province of the two prosecutorial arms of the government to weigh the relative importance of two separate prosecutions in two separate districts and dispose of them as practical considerations dictated. 
  • Nothing in the record overcame the presumption that the United States did so in good faith for substantial reasons sufficiently articulated in the motion.

The order that denied appellant United States' motion to dismiss an indictment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions to sustain the motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the considerations which prompted the district court to overrule the motion to dismiss were legally insufficient to overcome the presumption of the government's good faith and establish its betrayal of the public interest.

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