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Fourth Amendment -- The Presumption of Reasonableness of a Subpoena Duces Tecum Issued by a Grand Jury

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 82 Issue: 4 Dated: (Winter 1992) Pages: 829-848
D E Chefitz
Date Published
20 pages
In United States v. R. Enterprises, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a subpoena duces tecum issued by a grand jury must be assumed to be reasonable, and it is up to the recipient to prove unreasonableness.
This decision rejected the Nixon doctrine which held that the government is required to show the relevancy, admissibility, and specificity of the subpoenaed materials before a court will enforce the subpoena duces tecum. This author concludes that the Court correctly placed the burden of proving unreasonableness on the subpoena recipient, but failed to define the scope of the reasonableness standard in order to enable lower courts to apply and interpret the standard. The author concludes that, because of this ambiguity, lower courts will probably vacillate between different standards depending upon the subpoena recipient's particular objection to compliance. The Court's reliance on the independent investigatory nature of the grand jury is questioned in light of recent changes in the grand jury system. This author argues further that grand juries act much as the prosecutor's puppets, and therefore the prosecutor's investigatory powers, which extend from police powers, should be subject to appropriate court supervision. Justice Steven's standard, which holds that the moving party has the initial burden of proving to the court some valid objection to subpoena compliance, which need not be limited to relevancy, balances both sides' interests while considering the grand jury's present nature. 164 notes


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