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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowman Dairy Co. v. United States, 341 U.S. 214 (1951)

Bowman Dairy Co. v. United States

No. 435

Argued March 9, 1951

Decided April 30, 1951

341 U.S. 214


Before trial on an indictment for violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act, defendants obtained under Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure an order requiring the Government to produce for inspection all documents or objects obtained from defendants and obtained by seizure or process from others. The Government complied with that order. Defendants also moved, under Rule 17(c), for an order directing compliance with a subpoena duces tecum requiring the production for inspection of certain documents and objects obtained by the Government by means other than seizure or process and which (a) had been presented to the grand jury, or (b) were to be offered as evidence at the trial, or

"(c) are relevant to the allegations or charges contained in said indictment, whether or not they might constitute evidence with respect to the guilt or innocence of any of the defendants."

For refusal to comply with this order, respondent, a government attorney who had possession of the subpoenaed materials, was found guilty of contempt.


1. Under Rule 17(c), any document or other material which has been obtained by the Government by solicitation or voluntarily from third persons, and which is admissible in evidence, is subject to subpoena. Pp. 341 U. S. 218-221.

(a) It is not required that materials thus subpoenaed be actually used in evidence, but only that a good faith effort be made to obtain evidence, and the court may control the use of Rule 17(c) to that end by its power to rule on motions to quash or modify. Pp. 341 U. S. 219-220.

(b) Where such materials are required to be produced, the court should be solicitous to protect against disclosures of the identity of informants and the method, manner and circumstances of the Government's acquisition of the materials. P. 341 U. S. 221.

2. Clause (c) of the subpoena is invalid, being not intended to produce evidentiary materials, but being merely "a fishing expedition to see what may turn up." P. 341 U. S. 221.

Page 341 U. S. 215

3. The subpoena being part good and part bad, respondent may not be held in contempt for refusal to comply with it. P. 341 U. S. 221.

185 F.2d 159, judgment vacated.

Upon review of an order of the District Court finding a government attorney guilty of contempt for refusal to comply with a subpoena duces tecum, the Court of Appeals reversed. 185 F.2d 159. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 919. Judgment vacated and cause remanded to the District Court, p. 341 U. S. 222.

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