Fisher v. United States

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Fisher v. United States
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided April 21, 1976


The IRS was investigating two taxpayers for violating federal tax laws in the 1970s. Each suspect contacted their accountants for their tax returns and financial information and had them sent to their attorneys.

When the IRS learned about the attorneys being in possession of the suspects' tax and financial data, the IRS legal department served subpoena duces tecum (document production request) on the attorneys.

Procedural History

At the trial, the defendants' attorneys refused the IRS subpoenas. The attorneys claimed their clients' 4th (no search and seizure) & 5th (self-incrimiation clause) Amendment rights under the US Constitution.


When the agent of a party is being asked to turn over a record, the party isn't compelled to do anything. In other words, the attorneys aren't being asked to give testimony.

A very broad construction to refuse document production is inconsistent with the text of the 5th Amendment according to the Court.


According to the Court, turning over a document that already exists isn't a compulsion. At the time when the tax returns were being created and filed, the defendants did create those records voluntarily.