United States v. Mersky,
361 U.S. 431 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Mersky, 361 U.S. 431 (1960)

United States v. Mersky

No. 31

Argued November 10, 1959

Decided February 23, 1960

361 U.S. 431


An information filed in a Federal District Court charged appellees with having violated 19 U.S.C. § 1304 by removing from ten violins imported from the Soviet Zone of Germany, after their importation but prior to their sale to ultimate purchasers, labels reading "Germany/USSR Occupied," with intent to conceal the identity of the country of origin. The District Court dismissed the information on the ground that removal of the labels did not violate § 1304, because the applicable regulation appeared to require the Soviet Zone marking for tariff purposes only, rather than to apprise the ultimate purchasers of the place of origin, and also that the regulation was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous to justify a criminal prosecution. The Government appealed to the Court of Appeals, which held that the order of dismissal was appealable directly to this Court under 18 U.S.C. § 3731 because (a) the District Court's interpretation of the regulation was tantamount to a construction of the statute upon which the information was founded, and (b) the effect of the dismissal was to sustain a motion in bar. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals certified the case to this Court.


1. The charges in the information are founded on § 1304 and the regulations thereunder; the information was dismissed solely because its allegations did not state an offense under § 1304, as amplified by the regulations; the statute and regulations are so inextricably intertwined that an interpretation of the regulations necessarily is a construction of the statute, and the case was properly certified to this Court by the Court of Appeals under 18 U.S.C. § 3731. Pp. 361 U. S. 434-438.

2. The regulation here involved appears to be aimed at the collection of duties, rather than the protection of ultimate purchasers in the United States; it is not sufficiently clear and unambiguous to furnish a basis for a criminal prosecution for violation of 19 U.S.C. § 1304; and the information was properly dismissed. Pp. 361 U. S. 438-441.


Page 361 U. S. 432

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