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UNITED STATES V. KORDEL, 397 U. S. 1 (1970)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Kordel, 397 U.S. 1 (1970)

United States v. Kordel

No. 87

Argued November 20, 1969

Decided February 24, 1970

397 U.S. 1


Respondents are corporate officers who, with the corporation, were convicted of violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. An in rem action against two corporate products had been begun in June, 1960, and interrogatories routinely prepared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were submitted to the corporation in January, 1961. Later that month, the corporation and respondents were notified, pursuant to § 305 of the Act, that the FDA contemplated a criminal proceeding against them respecting the transactions that were the subject of the civil action. In June, 1961, the District Court denied the corporation's motion to stay further proceedings in the civil action or to extend the time for answering the interrogatories until after disposition of any criminal proceeding. The FDA recommended criminal prosecution prior to the September answer to the interrogatories by the corporation through respondent Feldten. No one associated with the corporation asserted his privilege against self-incrimination. The Court of Appeals reversed respondents' convictions on the ground that use of interrogatories to obtain evidence in a nearly contemporaneous civil condemnation proceeding operated to violate their Fifth Amendment privilege.


1. The Court of Appeals erred in holding that the answers to the interrogatories were involuntarily given. Pp. 397 U. S. 6-11.

Page 397 U. S. 2

(a) Respondent Feldten, who was not barred from asserting his privilege against self-incrimination because the corporation had no privilege of its own or because the proceeding was civil, rather than criminal, failed to assert his privilege, and cannot now complain that he was forced to testify against himself. Pp. 397 U. S. 7-10.

(b) Respondent Kordel, who answered no interrogatories and did not assert the privilege, can hardly claim compulsory self-incrimination, and Kordel cannot claim that his right to confrontation was violated by use in the criminal case against him of his codefendant Feldten's admissions, which were never introduced in evidence. Pp. 397 U. S. 10-11.

2. On the record here the respondents have not established a violation of due process or a departure from proper standards in the administration of justice requiring the exercise of the Court's supervisory power. Pp. 397 U. S. 11-13.

407 F.2d 570, reversed and remanded.

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