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UNITED STATES v. BRAMBLETT

April 14, 1954

UNITED STATES
v.
BRAMBLETT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BASTIAN

This case is before the Court on defendant's motion in arrest of judgment, Rule 34, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C., or, in the alternative for a judgment of acquittal, Rule 29, Fed.Rules Crim.Proc., or, in the alternative, for a new trial, Rule 33, Fed.Rules Crim.Proc.

 'Whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry, shall be fined not more than $ 10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. June 25, 1948, c. 645, 62 Stat. 749.' (Emphasis supplied.)

 The indictment charges in Counts One through Seven that the defendant did, on or about August 27, 1949, present to the Disbursing Office of the House of Representatives, in Washington, D.C., a Clerk-Hire Allowance form dated August 27, 1949, and did thereby knowingly and willfully falsify, by a scheme, a material fact; that the material fact allegedly falsified by the scheme was the representation by that designation that Margaret M. Swanson was a clerk (and entitled to receive compensation) to the defendant in the discharge of his official and representative duties as a member of Congress from the 11th District, State of California, the true fact being that the said Margaret M. Swanson was not such a clerk, as the defendant well knew. The first seven counts allege that the defendant did, beginning on June 30, 1950, and for each succeeding month thereafter through December 20, 1950, within the District of Columbia, in a matter within the jurisdiction of a department and agency of the United States, knowingly and willfully falsify by a scheme a material fact, by knowingly and willfully continuing in full force and effect the designation contained in the said Clerk-Hire Allowance form as aforementioned.

 The defendant's motions for acquittal or, in the alternative, for a new trial, are denied.

 The defendant's principal contention in connection with his motion in arrest of judgment, and the only one in which the Court finds any merit, is that the indictment fails to state an offense against the United States, in that the indictment fails to charge the defendant with falsifying any fact 'within the jurisdiction of a department or agency of the United States'. The defendant contends that the Disbursing Office of the House of Representatives, to which the false statement was allegedly made, being an office of the legislative branch of the Government, does not fall within the definition of 'any department or agency of the United States'. His contention is that it was the intent of Congress to limit the words 'department or agency', when used in a section within Title 18, to include only the executive branch of the Government unless the context of the statute specifically included within its scope the legislative or judicial branches of the Government.

 The defendant in support of his contention urges that, when there is doubt and uncertainty concerning the scope or construction of a criminal statute, that doubt must be resolved in favor of the defendant. In other words, the defendant contends that criminal statutes should be strictly construed. The Government takes the position that, in those cases wherein that principle is expounded, the language of the statute under inquiry is ambiguous and that the rule as to strict construction does not require that the statute be given the narrowest possible meaning nor that the congressional intent be disregarded.

 The Government urges that Title 18, § 1001, supra, is not ambiguous, and that the legislative history of the Act justifies the conclusion that Congress did not intend the statute to be limited to the executive branches of the Government only.

 Title 18, United States Code, § 1001, supra, originated as the Act of March 2, 1863, 12 Stat. 696, and later became Section 5438 of the Revised Statutes *fn1" under the codification of December 1, 1873, approved June 22, 1874. An amendment of May 30, 1908, 35 Stat. 555, changed the penalties for the offenses. The Act of March 4, 1909, 35 Stat. 1088, 1095, was 'An Act to codify, revise, and amend the penal laws of the United States.' Former Section 5438 of the Revised Statutes received the section number 35, 'Presenting false claims.' Section 35 read in part as follows:

 'Whoever shall make or cause to be made, or present or cause to be presented, for payment or approval, to or by any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, any claim upon or against the Government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent; or whoever, for the purpose of obtaining or aiding to obtain the payment or approval of such claim, shall make or use, or cause to be made or used, any false bill, receipt, voucher, roll, account, claim, certificate, affidavit, or deposition, knowing the same to contain any fraudulent or fictitious statement or entry * * * shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. * * *' (Emphasis supplied.)

 Congress then passed the amendment of October 23, 1918, 40 Stat. 1015, since unsuccessful attempts had been made under Section 35 to punish persons committing frauds against some of the corporations created by Congress during World War I in which the Government owned all or part of the stock. The amended section added, among other things, the words 'any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder'. The pertinent part of Section 35 then read as follows:

 'Whoever shall make or cause to be made or present or cause to be presented, for payment or approval, to or by any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, any claim upon or against the Government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent; or whoever, for the purpose of obtaining or aiding to obtain the payment or approval of such claim, or for the purpose and with the intent of cheating and swindling or defrauding the Government of the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, shall knowingly and willfully falsify or conceal or cover up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or make or cause to be made any false or fraudulent statements or representations, or make or use or cause to be made or used any false bill, receipt, voucher, roll, account, claim, certificate, affidavit, or deposition, knowing the same to contain any fraudulent or fictitious statement or entry * * * shall be fined not more than $ 10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. * * *' (Emphasis supplied.)

 As the later amendments are referred to, it will be noted that the broad language just mentioned as to false statements has been seriously limited, and the language in Title 18, United States Code Section 1001, is now: 'in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States', language substantially different from: 'Government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof'.

 On June 18, 1934, Title 18, Section 35, was amended, 48 Stat. 996, so as to read:

 'Whoever shall make or cause to be made or present or cause to be presented, for payment or approval, to or by any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or any department thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, any claim upon or against the Government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, or any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent; or whoever shall knowingly and willfully falsify or conceal or cover up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or make or cause to be made any false or fraudulent statements or representations, or make or use or cause to be made or used any false bill, receipt, voucher, roll, account, claim, certificate, affidavit, or deposition, knowing the same to contain any fraudulent or fictitious statement or entry, in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or of any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder * * * shall be fined not more than $ 10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. * * *' (Emphasis supplied.)

 This amendment eliminated the words 'cheating and swindling or defrauding' and embraced false and fraudulent statements or representations where these were knowingly and willfully used in documents or affidavits 'in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or of any corporation in which the United States of America is a stockholder', there being no restriction to cases involving pecuniary or property loss to the Government. See United States v. Gilliland, 312 U.S. 86, 61 S. Ct. 518, 85 L. Ed. 598. In that case, the Court was concerned with the effect of the 1934 amendment to Section 35, but did not decide the scope of the words 'department or agency' since the false and fraudulent statements charged there related "to a matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Federal Tender Board No. 1, Kilgore, Texas". 312 U.S. at page 90, 61 S. Ct. at page 521.

 Prior to the 1934 amendment, the Secretary of the Interior sought legislation to aid the enforcement of laws relating to the functions of the Department of the Interior and, in particular, to the enforcement of regulations under Section 9c of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 with respect to the transportation of 'hot oil.' The Secretary's effort was due, as he stated, to the lack of a law under which prosecution might be had 'for the presentation of false statements.'

 The bill which was passed by Congress, however, was amended in its final stages so as to require 'intent to defraud the United States.' This bill was returned by the President without his approval, for the reason that the offense as defined was covered by existing law, which provided for more severe punishment than that proposed by the bill.

 Another measure was then proposed by the Secretary of the Interior which would obviate these objections and accomplish the purpose of including the presentation of false statements in relation to 'hot oil.' The bill was then passed and approved and included, with other amendments of Section 35, the 1934 amendment above referred to, omitting and eliminating words which had been deemed to make the former provision applicable only to cases where pecuniary or property loss to the Government had been caused. See United States v. Cohn, 270 U.S. 339, 346, 46 S. Ct. 251, 70 L. Ed. 616.

 Section 35 was again amended April 4, 1938, 52 Stat. 197, but that amendment merely divided Section 35 into Subsections (A), (B) and (C), and separated them into paragraphs. 18 U.S.C.A. § 80 et seq.

 The Act of June 25, 1948, 62 Stat. 683, revising the Criminal Code, divided Section 80, 18 U.S.C.A. into two sections. The provisions against making false claims were set out in Title 18 U.S.C. § 287; and the provisions against making false statements, with which we are here concerned, were set out in Section 1001 of that Title, supra.

 The Government argues that it was the intent and purpose of Congress, throughout the legislative history, to include all branches of the Government and that the language of Section 1001 is plain and completely comprehensive, and that this apparent intention should not be frustrated by construction.

 The Government cites Spivey v. United States, 5 Cir., 1940, 109 F.2d 181, 310 U.S. 631, 60 S. Ct. 1079, 84 L. Ed. 1401, certiorari denied, wherein Section 80, formerly Section 35 (the forerunner sections of ...


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