Brogan v. United States

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Brogan v. United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 2, 1997
Decided January 26, 1998
Full case name James Brogan v. United States
Citations 522 U.S. 398 (more)
Section 1001 U.S.C. does not permit the use of an "exculpatory no"
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Scalia, joined by Kennedy, Thomas, Rehnquist, O'Connor
Concurrence Ginsburg, joined by Souter
Dissent Stevens, joined by Breyer
Laws applied
§ 1001 U.S.C, U.S. Const. amend. V

Brogan v. United States, 522 U.S. 398 (1998), is a United States Supreme Court case that ruled that the Fifth Amendment does not protect the right of those being questioned by law enforcement officials to deny wrongdoing if doing so would be a false statement.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The case determined the ultimate status of the “exculpatory no”, a right found by several circuit courts. These courts claimed that Section 1001 of the U.S. Code should be interpreted such that the law does not apply to those who simply deny wrongdoing. Justice Scalia explains that, although others have interpreted the law to only apply to situations in which the lie “pervert[s] government functions”, the language of the statute is clear, and that the court has no power to overrule the wording of the statute as created by Congress, even if the law is being used outside of its intended purpose.

The court also ruled that the Fifth Amendment does not apply in this situation, as the Fifth Amendment must be explicitly invoked, and even then only gives the person involved the right to remain silent, not to explicitly lie.

Ginsburg's concurrence[edit]

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Souter, argue that, although Section 1001 is written in such a way such that its relevance in this case is incontrovertible, the current wording of Section 1001 leads to unreasonable and unintended circumstances, such as that of defendant Brogan, and should be rewritten. She details the circumstances of this particular case, recalling that investigators arrived unannounced at Brogan's home, already having secured evidence that he had received illicit cash payments. They asked him if he had received the illicit payments he had received, to which Brogan replied “No”. The investigators then concluded the interview, stating that they knew he was lying and that his lie constituted a crime. In other words, the interview had not served to gather information, but simply to coerce Brogan into committing an additional crime.

Stevens's dissent[edit]

Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Breyer, follow the reasoning given by Justice Ginsburg, but argued that this logic gives the court the right and means to restrict the application of Section 1001 to not apply to cases involving an exculpatory no. They show a willingness to go against the literal meaning of the law as enacted by the Legislature it the interest of sustaining the spirit of the law.


External links[edit]