United States v. Wells, 519 U.S. 482 (1997)

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482

OCTOBER TERM, 1996

Syllabus

UNITED STATES v. WELLS et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eighth circuit

No. 95-1228. Argued November 4, 1996—Decided February 26, 1997

An indictment charged respondents with, inter alia, knowingly making false and "material" statements to a federally insured bank in violation of 18 U. S. C. 1014. At the trial's end, the District Court instructed the jury, at the Government's behest, that withholding a "material fact" made a statement or representation false and that materiality of an allegedly false statement was for the judge, not the jury, to determine. The jury convicted respondents, the court treated their statements as material, and they appealed. This Court then decided, in United States v. Gaudin, 515 U. S. 506, that if materiality is an element of 1001, it is a question for the jury. When the Eighth Circuit requested supplemental briefing on Gaudin's applicability in this case, respondents argued that materiality is an element of 1014 on which they were entitled to a jury's determination; the Government argued, for the first time, that materiality is not an element under 1014, so that no harm had been done when the trial judge dealt with the issue. The Eighth Circuit agreed with respondents, vacated their convictions and sentences, and remanded the case for a new trial.

Held: 1. Respondents' preliminary arguments do not block this Court from reaching the question on which the writ of certiorari was granted. Although the Government proposed jury instructions to the effect that materiality is an element of 1014, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 30 and the doctrines of "law of the case" and "invited error" do not prevent the Government from taking the contrary position here. Although the indictment charged respondents with submitting material false statements, the "law of the case" doctrine does not prevent the Government from arguing here that materiality is not an element of 1014. While the Government failed to argue in its initial briefs submitted to the Court of Appeals that materiality is not an element of 1014, it did so in its supplemental filings, and thus the "invited error" doctrine could not prevent the Government from taking the opposite position here. Pp. 487-489. 2. Materiality of falsehood is not an element of the crime of knowingly making a false statement to a federally insured bank under 1014. Pp. 489-500.

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