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U.S. v. Liebert

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Citation Edit

United States v. Liebert, 519 F.2d 542 (3d Cir. 1975) (full-text), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 985 (1975).

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The defendant was charged with failure to file income tax returns. The IRS computers had no record of the defendant's filing. The defendant requested that his computer expert have access to the IRS Service Center to analyze and test, particularly for reliability, the IRS data processing system. The request was granted. Then the defendant requested, for discovery purposes, records of the notices sent to persons stating that they had filed no returns or none had been received by the IRS.

The issue was whether pretrial discovery may be used to secure extrinsic evidence to impeach the reliability of a computer printout, a fundamental element of the prosecution's case. The court granted the defendant's request for a portion of the list of nonfilers. Because the government refused to comply with the court order, the court dismissed the case.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

On appeal, the dismissal was reversed. The appellate court initially noted that pretrial discovery in criminal cases usually is within the court's discretion.

The appellate court stated:

The introduction of a computer printout is admissible in a criminal trial provided that the party offering the computer information lays a foundation sufficient to warrant a finding that such information is trustworthy and the opposing party is given the same opportunity to inquire into the accuracy of the computer and its input procedures as he has to inquire into the accuracy of written business records.[1]

However, the court held that supplying the list that the defendant requested would be unreasonable because of infringement of the right of privacy of those persons on the list.

The court noted that the availability of the lists could lead to the defendant contacting the persons on the list. The alternative suggestion that the IRS make available to the defendant all the documents regarding the procedures, operation, and electronic data processing system and the statistical analysis regarding the capability of the IRS to discover nonfilers and allow its expert witness to be deposed was held sufficient to provide the defendant with an opportunity to question the accuracy of the system.

References Edit

  1. Id. at 547.

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