United States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503 (1943)
When a plaintiff and a defendant collude to create a lawsuit, a court should dismiss the case.
Roach sought treble damages and attorney fees from Johnson, his landlord, on the basis that the residential property that he rented was subject to a rent control regulation because it was within a defense rental area. Johnson argued that the Act on which the rent control regulation was based violated the Constitution, so the case should be dismissed. The federal government filed a brief to support the law's constitutionality. The lower court eventually dismissed the case, ruling that the law and the regulation represented unconstitutional delegations of authority to the administrator of the law. The federal government reiterated its argument in support of the constitutionality of the law on appeal, and it also noted its suspicions that Roach and Johnson had colluded to bring the case. As a result, it urged that the lower court should have reopened the case.Opinions
Litigation is improper between two parties who are not true adversaries because the rights of each side will not be vigorously asserted. This is especially important in cases where constitutional issues arise. The landlord apparently had urged the tenant to help him bring the case, and the tenant did not pay filing costs or attorney fees, never read the complaint, never met his lawyer, and was unaware of important issues in the case.Case Commentary
Practically speaking, it is often difficult to discern whether the parties have colluded in creating a dispute unless a third party provides evidence of it. However, courts generally decline to hear them because there is not a real case or controversy that gives rise to the claim. This rule does not require that the parties disagree on every issue relating to the matter, but the reason for filing the suit cannot be a common motive.
U.S. Supreme CourtUnited States v. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503 (1943)
United States v. Johnson
Argued April 10, 13, 1942
Reargued October 12, 1942
Decided June 7, 1943*
319 U.S. 503
1. Under Jud.Code § 284, a grand jury can be authorized to sit beyond the term of court at which it was organized only to finish investigations begun during that term. P. 319 U. S. 510.
2. Where a grand jury sat to the end of the term at which it was organized and, by authority of an order of court, through the term next following, a further order authorizing it to continue to sit during the term next succeeding "to finish investigations begun but not finished" by it during the original and intermediate terms is to be read not as attempting to authorize the finishing of investigations begun contrary to Jud.Code § 284 in the intermediate term, but as authorizing only the finishing of investigations begun during the original term. P. 319 U. S. 509.
3. A grand jury is invested with broad investigatorial powers into what may be found to be offenses against federal criminal law. Its work is not circumscribed by the technical requirements governing the ascertainment of guilt once it has made the charges that culminate its inquiries. P. 319 U. S. 510.
4. That for which a grand jury may be authorized to continue its sitting after the term during which it was organized is the general subject matter on which it originally began to investigate in that term. And where its sessions have been extended by order to a following term, it is not forbidden to inquire into new matters within the general scope of its original investigation. P. 319 U. S. 511.
5. A grand jury, which began its investigation of systematic income tax evasions during a December, 1939, Term in which it was organized, and which was allowed to continue its sitting during the next two terms (February and March) for the purpose of finishing the investigation, properly included in its indictment for an attempted evasion of taxes for the year 1939 the filing of a false return in March, 1940, which was a part of the systematic, fraudulent practice investigated. P. 319 U. S. 511.
6. Where an indictment alleged that the grand jury's investigation of the matters charged was begun but not finished at the term of court at which the jury was organized, and that the jury, pursuant to orders of court, had continued to sit during the two following terms for the purpose of finishing such investigation, and pleas and motions were filed seeking to put these allegations in issue and to have the indictment quashed upon the ground that it resulted from an investigation begun after the original term, beyond the competency of the grand jury, held that the Government was not required to answer or to assume the burden of supporting with proof the allegations of the indictment, and that the motion to quash was properly stricken on a preliminary motion by the Government. P. 319 U. S. 512.
7. Where one person was charged in several counts with attempts to defeat and evade the payment of his income taxes for each of several years (made a felony by § 145(b) of the Internal Revenue Code), and with filing false returns on March 15th of each of the years in the process of such attempts, and not merely with the offense of filing false returns, which is made a misdemeanor by § 145(a) of that Code, and others were joined as aiders and abettors (who, under § 332 of the Criminal Code, are principals) charged with assisting him by their conduct during the years in question both before and after the returns were filed, but not as participating in the acts of filing, held that the counts, as against the aiders and abettors, were neither inconsistent nor duplicitous, nor objectionable as charging them in the same count as accessories both before and after the fact. P. 319 U. S. 514.
8. The evidence concerning the connection of the defendant Johnson with a network of gambling houses, his winnings, and his private expenditures during the years in question was sufficient to warrant leaving the case to the jury. P. 319 U. S. 515.
9. In a prosecution for attempts to avoid payment of income taxes, the fact that the defendant's private expenditures during the years in question exceeded his available declared resources held competent as evidence that he had some unreported income. P. 319 U. S. 517.
10. One may aid and abet another in attempts to evade income taxes, without participating in the making of the other's false returns, by falsely pretending to be the proprietor of establishments from which the other's income was derived. P. 319 U. S. 518.
Evidence of the conduct, acts and admissions of persons charged as aiders and abettors amply warranted sending their cases to the jury. P. 319 U. S. 518.
11. Admission of testimony of an expert witness regarding income and expenditures of one of the accused in this case, although consisting of computationals based on substantially the entire evidence in the record, held not an invasion of the province of the jury where, in the light of the judge's charge, all issues are left to the independent, unforeclosed determination of the jury. P. 319 U. S. 519.
123 F.2d 111, 142, reversed.
Certiorari, 315 U.S. 790, to review the reversal of sentences imposed by the District Court in a prosecution of Johnson and others for alleged violations of penal provisions of the Revenue Acts of 1936 and 1938 and for conspiracy.