Perlman v. United States

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Perlman v. United States by Joseph McKenna
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

247 U.S. 7

Perlman  v.  United States

 Argued: April 18, 1918. --- Decided: May 6, 1918

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. (D. C.) 231 Fed. 453, 231 Fed. 734, 146 C. C. A. 18. 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.

n 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. 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. [1] 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 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 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 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.

Mr. Louis Marshall, of New York City, for appellant and plaintiff in error.

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Fitts for the United States.

Mr. Justice McKENNA, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the Court.


  1. 'This cause having come on to be heard and testimony having been taken by both parties, now, on plaintiff's motion, and after hearing defendant's counsel in opposition thereto, it is

'Ordered, that the bill of complaint herein be and it hereby is dismissed without prejudice with costs to defendant to be taxed; and as a condition of such dismissal and in accordance with plaintiff's stipulation made in open court, it is

'Further ordered, that the minutes of the trial be filed and that all the exhibits offered by either party be impounded and deposited with the clerk of this court under seal to be opened only by order of court on notice to each of the parties hereto; and

'That, all testimony taken up to the present time in this cause (as well as the exhibits) shall stand as testimony which may be read and used in any cause between the parties hereto or between any other parties who would be privies if judgment were entered herein, including cases in which the vendees and users of the rims made or sold by the defendant or such other parties are sued.'

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).