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SHAPIRO V. UNITED STATES, 335 U. S. 1 (1948)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Shapiro v. United States, 335 U.S. 1 (1948)

Shapiro v. United States

No. 49

Argued October 23, 1947

Decided June 21, 1948

335 U.S. 1


1. In obedience to an administrative subpoena, petitioner produced sales records which he had kept as required by a regulation of the Price Administrator, but claimed constitutional privilege. In a prosecution for violation of the Emergency Price Control Act based on evidence thus produced, he interposed a plea in bar, claiming that, under § 202(g) of the Act, which incorporates by reference the provisions of the Compulsory Testimony Act of 1893, his production of these records gave him immunity from prosecution. Held: the plea in bar was properly overruled by the trial court. Pp. 335 U. S. 3-36.

2. The language of the Act and its legislative history, viewed against the background of settled judicial construction of the immunity provision, indicate that Congress required records to be kept as a means of enforcing the statute, and did not intend to frustrate the use of these records for enforcement action by granting an immunity to individuals compelled to disclose them to the Administrator. Pp. 335 U. S. 7-32.

(a) The very language of § 202(a) discloses that the recordkeeping and inspection requirements were designed not merely to "obtain information" for assistance in prescribing regulations or orders under the statute, but also to aid in their enforcement. P. 335 U. S. 8.

(b) The legislative history of § 202 indicates that Congress, whose attention was invited by proponents of the Price Control Act to the vital importance of the licensing, recordkeeping and inspection provisions in aiding effective enforcement, did not chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 335 U. S. 2

intend § 202(g) to proffer a "gratuity to crime" by granting immunity to custodians of nonprivileged records. Pp. 335 U. S. 8-16.

(c) In view of the previous construction given to the Compulsory Testimony Act of 1893 by this Court in Heike v. United States, 227 U. S. 131, Congress must have intended the immunity proviso in the Price Control Act to be coterminous with what would otherwise have been the constitutional privilege of petitioner in the case at bar; and since he could assert no valid privilege as to the required records here involved, under the doctrine of Wilson v. United States, 221 U. S. 361, he was entitled to no immunity under the statute. Pp. 335 U. S. 16-20.

(d) The precise wording of § 202(g) of the Price Control Act indicates that its draftsmen went to some pains to insure that the immunity provided for would be construed by the courts as being so limited. Pp. 335 U. S. 20-22.

(e) Since the Price Control Act provided for price regulations enforceable against unincorporated entrepreneurs as well as corporate industry, it cannot be assumed that Congress intended to differentiate sub silentio, for purposes of the immunity proviso, between records required to be kept by individuals and those required to be kept by corporations. Pp. 335 U. S. 22-24.

(f) Such a construction of the immunity proviso does not render meaningless the phrase "any requirements" in the opening clause of § 202(g). Pp. 335 U. S. 24-29.

(g) The legislative history of the 1893 immunity provision, which was incorporated into the Emergency Price Control Act, clearly discloses that the provision was enacted merely to provide an immunity sufficiently broad to be an adequate substitute for the constitutional privilege, in response to the ruling by this Court in Counselman v. Hitchcock, 142 U. S. 547. Pp. 335 U. S. 28-29.

(h) The canon of avoidance of constitutional doubts does not govern the interpretation of the immunity provision, since its application to that clause would override the settled judicial construction of similar provisions and the legislative history of the Compulsory Testimony Act of 1893, and would frustrate the congressional intent manifested by the legislative history of the Emergency Price Control Act. Pp. 335 U. S. 29-35.

3. This construction of § 202(g) of the Price Control Act raises no serious doubts as to its constitutionality. Pp. 335 U. S. 32-34.

(a) The privilege which exists as to private papers cannot be maintained where the records in question were required to be maintained under appropriate regulation, their relevance to the lawful purpose of the OPA is unquestioned, and they record transactions chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 335 U. S. 3

in which the dealer could engage solely by virtue of a license granted under the statute. Pp. 335 U. S. 32-35.

(b) The sales record which petitioner was required to keep as a licensee under the Price Control Act was such a record; it was legally obtained by the Administrator pursuant to the Act, and hence it was available as evidence. Pp. 335 U. S. 34-35.

159 F.2d 890, affirmed.

Petitioner was convicted of having made tie-in sales in violation of regulations under the Emergency Price Control Act, notwithstanding a plea in bar claiming immunity from prosecution under § 202(g). The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 159 F.2d 890. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 801. Affirmed, p. 335 U. S. 36.

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