U.S. Supreme Court
Will v. United States, 389 U.S. 90 (1967)
Will v. United States
Argued October 17-18, 1967
Decided November 13, 1967
389 U.S. 90
Petitioner, a federal district judge, ordered the Government to supply certain information requested by the defendant in a bill of particulars in a criminal case. The prosecutor refused to comply on the ground that the request constituted a demand for a list of prosecution witnesses, the production of which petitioner lacked power to compel under Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 7(f). Petitioner thereupon indicated his intention to dismiss the indictments against the defendant. The Government petitioned the Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus to compel petitioner to strike the request for information from his bill of particulars order. On the basis of briefs filed, that court initially denied the Government's petition but, without new briefs or oral argument, and without opinion, reversed itself and issued a writ of mandamus directing petitioner to vacate his order. The Government contends that, absent compelling considerations, a trial court may not order the Government to produce a list of its witnesses before trial, and thereby offend the informant's privilege.
Held: The record in this case discloses no proper justification for the Court of Appeals to have invoked the extraordinary writ of mandamus to review the trial court's interlocutory order. Pp. 389 U. S. 95-107.
(a) The writ of mandamus has traditionally been used in the federal courts only
"to confine an inferior court to a lawful exercise of its prescribed jurisdiction or to compel it to exercise its authority when it is its duty to do so."
(b) Appellate review should ordinarily be postponed until after the trial court renders final judgment. This is especially important in criminal cases, where a defendant is entitled to a speedy trial and may not be subjected to double jeopardy. P. 389 U. S. 96.
(c) Appeals by the Government in federal criminal cases are not favored, and mandamus may not be used as a substitute for an interlocutory appeal. Pp. 389 U. S. 96-97.
(d) Fed.Rule Crim.Proc. 7(f) specifically empowers the trial court to direct the filing of a bill of particulars, and that court chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
has broad discretion to rule upon a request for such a bill. Pp. 389 U. S. 98-99.
(e) The request here did not call for a list of prosecution witnesses, and the record in this case does not support the Government's assertion that petitioner, contrary to federal rules for pretrial criminal discovery, followed a uniform rule of requiring the Government in criminal cases to furnish the defense, on motion for a bill of particulars, with a list of potential witnesses. Pp. 389 U. S. 99-104.
(f) Petitioner had manifested his willingness to narrow the disclosure order upon a showing that the safety of individuals or the Government's ability to produce its evidence so required, but the Government made no such showing. P. 389 U. S. 101.
(g) The lack of an opinion by the Court of Appeals precludes any proper appraisal of the basis for its invocation of the extraordinary writ. Pp. 389 U. S. 104-107.
Vacated and remanded.