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In re Grand Jury Investigation

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
918 F.2d 374 (1990)


Facts

Investigators suspected arson when a house that a black family had just purchased in an all-white neighborhood burned. Four neighbors lived next door: a married couple, the wife’s adult son from a previous marriage, and the son’s fiancée. All four sought counseling with a Lutheran pastor within days of the fire. The prosecution, suspecting that the neighbors conspired together in the arson and then discussed it with the pastor, subpoenaed the pastor to testify before the grand jury. After the pastor asserted the clergy-communicant privilege, the trial court refused to compel his testimony. The prosecution appealed, arguing that the fiancée’s presence at the pastor’s counseling sessions defeated the privilege.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Becker, J.)

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