The United States Court of Appeals
Sixth Circuit

(Part 7 of 9)


We consider whether the conduct outlined herein constitutes fraud on the court or attorney misconduct sufficiently serious to require corrective action on our part.


Fraud on the court is a somewhat nebulous concept usually discussed in civil cases. No court system can function without safeguards against actions that interfere with its administration of justice. This concern must be balanced against the necessity for finality of court judgments; thus, only actions that actually subvert the judicial process can be the basis for upsetting otherwise settled decrees.

Professor Moore's definition is frequently cited:

Fraud upon the court should . . . embrace only that species of fraud which does or attempts to, subvert the integrity of the court itself, or is a fraud perpetrated by officers of the court so that the judicial machinery cannot perform in the usual manner its impartial task of adjudging cases that are presented for adjudication, and relief should be denied in the absence of such conduct.

7 Moore's Federal Practice and Procedure P60.33. Cases dealing with fraud on the court often turn on whether the improper actions are those of parties alone, or if the attorneys in the case are involved. As an officer of the court, every attorney has a duty to be completely honest in conducting litigation. Professor Moore emphasizes this element of fraud in his treatise:

While an attorney should represent his client with singular loyalty, that loyalty obviously does not demand that he act dishonestly or fraudulently; on the contrary his loyalty to the court, as an officer thereof, demands integrity and honest dealing with the court. And when he departs from that standard in the conduct of a case he perpetrates fraud upon a court.

Id. The author cites two Supreme Court decisions that illustrate the role of attorney actions in the fraud on the court analysis. Moore distinguishes between Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238, 88 L. Ed. 1250, 64 S. Ct. 997 (1944), in which the Supreme Court did find fraud, and U.S. v. Throckmorton, 98 U.S. 61, 25 L. Ed. 93 (1878), in which the Court did not find fraud. While the actions taken in both cases were similar--false documents were put before the court--the attorney was implicated in Hazel-Atlas as one of the perpetrators, while the attorney in Throckmorton was not. 7 Moore's Federal Practice at 60- 358-59. See also Serzysko v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 461 F.2d 699 (2d Cir. 1972), where the court of appeals as part of its finding of no fraud on the court, pointed out that none of the offending party's attorneys were involved in the alleged fraud. 461 F.2d at 702 n.1.

When the party is the United States, acting through the Department of Justice, the distinction between client and attorney actions becomes meaningless. The Department acts only through its attorneys. Although there are cases holding that a "plan or scheme" must exist in order to find fraud [*353] on the court, we agree with Judge Wiseman that a scheme, based on a subjective intent to commit fraud, is not required in a case such as this. Reckless disregard for the truth is sufficient.


The respondents complain that Demjanjuk seeks to hold them to the constitutional standard in criminal cases enunciated in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963), even though all proceedings against Demjanjuk have been civil actions. The Supreme Court held in Brady that "the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." 373 U.S. at 87. The Special Master stated that he believed the Brady rule should govern, but confined his analysis to fraud on the court in a civil context, because the Supreme Court had never stated that the Brady rule applies in civil cases.


We believe Brady should be extended to cover denaturalization and extradition cases where the government seeks denaturalization or extradition based on proof of alleged criminal activities of the party proceeded against. If the government had sought to denaturalize Demjanjuk only on the basis of his misrepresentations at the time he sought admission to the United States and subsequently when he applied for citizenship, it would have been only a civil action. The government did not rest on those misrepresentations, however. Instead, the respondents presented their case as showing that Demjanjuk was guilty of mass murder.

The OSI prosecutors knew that Brady requires disclosure of exculpatory information in criminal cases. The Director of OSI, Mr. Ryan, testified that it is "fundamentally unfair" not to follow the Brady principle in OSI cases and that he intended for the office to follow this principle of full disclosure of exculpatory material. (Ryan Tr. at 37.) It is not sufficient to say, as the Special Master concludes, that no prosecutorial misconduct occurred under the Brady principle because no particular individual at OSI has been proved to have acted in "bad faith" with the express intent of suppressing exculpatory evidence.

In Brady itself, the Court stated that the failure to disclose material information is a due process violation "irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 86, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963). Otherwise, the prosecutor can proclaim that his heart is innocent and his failures inadvertent, a claim hard to disprove, while at the same time completely disregarding his duty to disclose.

The Court has also made plain that the prosecution cannot escape its disclosure obligation by compartmentalizing information or failing to inform others in the office of relevant information. In Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 31 L. Ed. 2d 104, 92 S. Ct. 763 (1972), the government made the same "the-right-hand-did-not-know-what-the-left- hand-was-doing" argument as it makes here. The Court was quick to reject this excuse as a justification for withholding exculpatory material. The Court pointed out that "the prosecutor's office is an entity and as such it is the spokesman for the government." The Court held that the prosecutor's office--here OSI-- is responsible as a corporate entity for disclosure. n2


The record is replete with evidence that Allan Ryan was considering extradition of Nazi war criminals to Israel even before Demjanjuk's denaturalization become final. When that event occurred, the government did not deport Demjanjuk; instead, it sought his extradition for trial as Ivan the Terrible pursuant to Israel's request.

The consequences of denaturalization and extradition equal or exceed those of most criminal convictions. In this case, Demjanjuk was extradited for trial on a charge that carried the death penalty. OSI is part of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. The OSI attorneys team with local United States Attorneys in seeking denaturalization and extradition, and they approach these cases as prosecutions. In fact, in correspondence and memoranda several of the respondents refer to their role in the Demjanjuk case as prosecutors. We believe the OSI attorneys had a constitutional duty to produce "all evidence favorable to an accused [Demjanjuk]," which the Special Master found he had requested and that was "material . . . to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution." Brady, 373 U.S. at 87.

Thus, we hold that the OSI attorneys acted with reckless disregard for the truth and for the government's obligation to take no steps that prevent an adversary from presenting his case fully and fairly. This was fraud on the court in the circumstances of this case where, by recklessly assuming Demjanjuk's guilt, they failed to observe their obligation to produce exculpatory materials requested by Demjanjuk.


n2 The full paragraph in which this rule is expressed is as follows: In the circumstances shown by this record, neither DiPaoloa's authority nor his failure to inform his superiors or his associates is controlling. Moreover, whether the nondisclosure was a result of negligence or design, it is the responsibility of the prosecutor. The prosecutor's office is an entity and as such it is the spokesman for the Government. A promise made by one attorney must be attributed, for these purposes, to the Government. See Restatement (Second) of Agency @ 272. See also American Bar Association, Project on Standards for Criminal Justice, Discovery and Procedure Before Trial @ 2.1(d). To the extent this places a burden on the large prosecution offices, procedures and regulations can be established to carry that burden and to insure communication of all relevant information on each case to every lawyer who deals with it. 405 U.S. at 154.

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