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United States v. Steele

461 F.2d 1148 (1972)

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United States v. Steele

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

461 F.2d 1148 (1972)

Facts

William Steele (defendant) was convicted of violating 13 U.S.C. § 221(a) and ordered to pay a $50 fine because Steele refused to answer questions on the United States Department of Commerce’s 1970 census form. Steele alleged that the federal government (plaintiff) selectively prosecuted only Steele and three other people in Hawaii under this statute because of their participation in a census-resistance movement. Steele, for example, held a press conference, led a protest march, and distributed pamphlets protesting the census as a privacy invasion. Leland Gray, Hawaii’s regional technician for the census, ordered his staff to compile special dossiers on only Steele and the three other vocal census resisters. Gray testified that the four individuals prosecuted were the only people that Gray recalled who completely refused to cooperate with census efforts. Gray also explained that according to standard operating procedure, any refusal to complete the census form in Hawaii would be reported up the chain of command to Gray, and at least two officials would attempt to obtain the missing census answers. Steele moved for the government’s disclosure of the total number of people prosecuted in Hawaii under the statute, but the prosecution claimed that the information was unavailable. Steele produced evidence of six people who refused to complete their census forms but did not publicly speak out against the census and were not prosecuted under the statute. Steele argued that the government’s selective prosecution violated his right to equal protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The federal district court found that Steele was not impermissibly selected for prosecution because the census officials knew of only the four violations that the government prosecuted. Steele appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wright, J.)

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