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U.S. Supreme Court

Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 344 (1931)

Go-Bart Importing Company v. United States

No. 111

Argued November 25, 1930

Decided January 5, 1931

282 U.S. 344


1. A warrant issued by a United States Commissioner, addressed only to the Marshal and his deputies, and based upon, and reciting the substance of, a complaint that was verified merely on information and belief, and that did not state an offense -- held invalid on its face, and no authority to prohibition officers to make an arrest. P. 282 U. S. 355.

2. Acting under color of an invalid warrant of arrest, and falsely claiming to have a search warrant, prohibition agents entered the office of a company, placed under arrest two of its officers, and made a general search of the premises. They compelled by threats of force the opening of a desk and safe, and seized therefrom and from other parts of the office, papers and records belonging to the company and its officers. The officers of the company were arraigned before a United States Commissioner, and by him held on bail further to answer the complaint (U.S.C., Title 18, § 591), while the seized papers were held under the control of the United States Attorney in the care and custody of the prohibition agent in charge. The company, and its two officers individually, before

Page 282 U. S. 345

an information or indictment had been returned against them, applied to the District Court for an order to enjoin the use of the seized papers as evidence and directing their return. On a rule against the United States to show cause, the United States Attorney appeared and opposed the motion, and an affidavit of the agent in charge was also filed in opposition. The applications were denied.


(1) In the proceedings before him, the Commissioner acted merely a an officer of the District Court in a matter of which it had authority to take control at any time. P. 282 U. S. 353.

(2) Notwithstanding the order to show cause was addressed to the United States alone, the proceeding was in substance and effect against the United States Attorney and the prohibition agent in charge, the latter being required by the Prohibition Act to report violations of it to the former and being authorized by the statute, subject to the former's control, to conduct such prosecutions; and both these officers were subject to the proper exertion of the disciplinary powers of the court. P. 282 U. S. 354.

(3) The District Court had jurisdiction summarily to determine whether the evidence should be suppressed and the papers returned to the petitioners. P. 282 U. S. 355.

(4) The company being a stranger to the proceedings before the Commissioner, the order of the District Court as to it was final and appealable. P. 282 U. S. 356.

(5) There being no information or indictment against the officers of the company when the application was made, and nothing to show that any criminal proceeding would ever be instituted in that court against them, it follows that the order was not made in or dependent upon any case or proceeding pending before the court, and therefore the order as to them was appealable. Id.

(6) The Fourth Amendment forbids every search that is unreasonable, and is to be liberally construed. P. 282 U. S. 356.

(7) Assuming that the facts of which the arresting officers had been previously informed were sufficient to justify the arrests without a warrant, nevertheless the uncontradicted evidence requires a finding that the search of the premises was unreasonable. Marron v. United States, 275 U. S. 192, distinguished. P. 282 U. S. 356.

(8) The District Court is directed to enjoin the United States Attorney and the agent in charge from using the paper as evidence and to order the same returned to petitioners. P. 282 U. S. 358.

40 F.2d 593 reversed.

Page 282 U. S. 346

Certiorari, 281 U.S. 719, to review a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals which affirmed in part a judgment of the District Court denying applications for an order to suppress and return evidence alleged to have been illegally obtained.

Page 282 U. S. 348

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