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United States v. Kordel

United States Supreme Court
397 U.S. 1 (1970)


Facts

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requested the government (plaintiff) file a lawsuit in federal district court to seize two products manufactured by Detroit Vital Foods, Inc., on the ground that the sale of the products violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (Act). The government filed interrogatories that the corporation was required to answer under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Ten days later, the government notified Vital Foods that it was the subject of a contemplated criminal proceeding. Vital Foods sought to stay the civil action or extend the time to answer the interrogatories until after the disposition of the criminal proceeding. In moving for the stay, the plaintiffs did not assert their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The court denied the motion upon finding that the corporation had failed to demonstrate that it would suffer substantial prejudice and harm if required to respond to the interrogatories. The President and Vice President of Vital Foods (defendants) were convicted, along with the company, of violating the Act. The federal court of appeals reversed their convictions on the ground that the government improperly used interrogatories to obtain evidence from the defendants in a nearly contemporaneous civil condemnation proceeding. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider questions regarding the government’s invocation of simultaneous civil and criminal proceedings in the enforcement of federal law.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

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