Perlman v. United States,
247 U.S. 7 (1918)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7 (1918)

Perlman v. United States

No. 752

Argued April 18, 1918

Decided May 6, 1918

247 U.S. 7


An order of the district court allowing the District Attorney's application for the custody of documentary and other exhibits, to be used in criminal proceedings against a witness in a private suit in which they were used and impounded, and overruling the witness' objection based on grounds of constitutional privilege and his prayer to have them restored to him as his property, is a final order, and the right of the objecting party to appeal therefrom is unaffected by his lack of interest in the suit in which the exhibits were impounded.

One who voluntarily and to subserve his own interest has produced papers, models, etc., owned by him, as part of his testimony in an equity suit, in which they are impounded as exhibits is not subjected to an unreasonable seizure or made to bear witness against himself within the meaning of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by the delivery of such exhibits to the district attorney and their use as

Page 247 U. S. 8

evidence in a prosecution of such owner for perjury alleged to have been committed in his testimony.

244 F. 304 affirmed.

Appeal and error to review an order denying petition of Perlman to restrain and enjoin the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York from taking into his possession or custody certain exhibits which had been impounded and deposited by order of the district court for that district with the clerk of the court.

In support of the relief prayed, Perlman alleges the following facts, which we state narratively: he is the inventor of a device known in the market as a demountable rim, its purpose being to mount and carry an inflated pneumatic tire upon a metallic rim, which contains locking devices for attachment to the wheels of automobiles and other vehicles.

He brought suit for infringement against the Standard Welding Company, and, issue being joined, there was a judgment for him against the company, which was affirmed by the court of appeals, 231 F. 453, id. 734. At the trial of the cause, certain exhibits hereinafter referred to were offered by him which were and are his personal property and have been continuously in his possession or in the possession of those who represent him.

Subsequently he, with others, formed a corporation known as the Perlman Rim Corporation, which, among other things, undertook to market the patented device.

In March, 1916, he assigned the letters patent to the corporation, but not the exhibits above mentioned.

In February, 1917, the corporation, being advised that the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company was infringing the device, brought suit against the company for infringement, which came up for trial before Judge Hand. After final submission of the case, the plaintiff, the Perlman Rim Corporation, through its counsel, asked leave to discontinue the action and for its dismissal without prejudice.

Page 247 U. S. 9

The motion was granted, but the condition was imposed that the evidence be perpetuated and the exhibits impounded in the custody of the clerk, to be kept under seal subject to the order of the court. * The exhibits were part of those heretofore referred to and used on the trial before Judge Hunt.

July 17, 1917, Perlman ascertained from the attorney for the corporation that the attorney had been served with a copy of an order signed by Judge Hand, directing him, the attorney for the corporation, and the attorney for the Firestone Company to appear and show cause why the United States attorney should not have and be given possession of the exhibits, as the United States attorney had instituted proceedings against Perlman which involved the question whether he had committed an offense against the United States. The attorney for the corporation also told Perlman that he had not opposed the motion and that the attorney for the Firestone Company had not appeared; that therefore the order would be entered as a matter of course.

The application of the United States attorney was based

Page 247 U. S. 10

on an affidavit of one Harold Harper, an assistant to the United States attorney, which charged, among other things, that the exhibits were material and necessary in an investigation pending before the grand jury and for preparation for trial in case an indictment should be found.

The exhibits are his, Perlman's, personal property, and the use of them by the grand jury and the United States attorney as contemplated would be in violation of his rights and unwarranted in law; they were impounded in a suit to which he was not a party, but a witness, and he had not consented thereto or been heard by counsel.

He prayed for an order upon all the parties concerned to show cause why an order should not be made directing the clerk to deliver to him, Perlman, the exhibits and that the United States attorney be restrained from using them, and that, unless such stay be granted, his rights would be seriously invaded and he would be compelled to furnish evidence against himself in a criminal proceeding, all without due process of law.

A schedule of the exhibits is attached to the petition, and shows them to be not only matters in writing, such as bills, letters and checks, but models of wheels, rim-carrying tires, and of other implements and tools, and the patent upon which the suit was brought.

Before the filing of the petition, an order had been granted upon motion of the United States attorney directing the clerk to produce the exhibits before the grand jury. The order further directed that the United States attorney have access to the exhibits at all reasonable times, and that, if an indictment should be found against Perlman, the United States attorney might have such temporary custody of the exhibits or any part thereof as might be necessary for the purpose, under such regulations as the clerk might make.

Upon the filing of Perlman's petition, an order was granted restraining the use of the exhibits until the

Page 247 U. S. 11

hearing of the petition. Subsequently, upon the hearing, and Perlman having withdrawn so much of his application as related to the return of the exhibits to him, the court, Judge Manton sitting, denied the relief prayed for against the use of the exhibits by the United States attorney or their presentation to the United States grand jury.

The order recited that it was made upon the order of Judge Hand, the petition of Perlman, and the affidavit of Harper.

The affidavit gives some detail that Perlman's petition does not. It states that Perlman testified that he had been president of the Perlman Rim Corporation since its formation, and further that he gave testimony in respect to the alleged invention which was the subject of the patent, and that, in the course of his testimony, he produced and offered in evidence on the part of the corporation the exhibits. And the affidavit states that the impounding of the exhibits was part of the decree in the suit against the Firestone Company, and that Perlman was present at the time and during practically all of the proceedings of the trial, and that the minutes of the court show no protest by him.

It further states that certain of the alleged perjuries committed by Perlman referred directly to the exhibits, as to the time and manner of their production or alteration, and that certain other statements alleged to have been perjured were made by him and supported by the exhibits. And further that, in the course of his cross-examination, Perlman gave certain evidence with regard to events in England in the year 1895 which did not directly concern the matter of invention, but went to the credibility of the witness as such, and in respect to those statements an indictment had been found against Perlman by the grand jury attending the court for the July, 1917, term.

The sources of information of Harper as to the above

Page 247 U. S. 12

matters not within his own knowledge were stated to be the official stenographic report of the trial, the records of the clerk's office, and statements made to him by persons who had been present in the court room during the trial and cognizant of the proceedings.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.