Young v. United States

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Young v. United States
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Citation 481 U.S. 787
Date decided May 26, 1987
Appealed from 2nd Circuit


  • LOUIS VUITTON ® = manufacturer of leather goods such as luxury handbags = "Vuitton"
  • Klayminc = manufacturer of counterfeit Vuitton bags = "Klayminc"
  • Vuitton & Klayminc reached a settlement that prohibited Klayminc from counter-feiting Vuitton goods
  • The following year, Vuitton hired private investigators to find Vuitton counterfeiters
  • The Vuitton investigators found evidence that Klayminc was stilling producing counterfeit Vuitton goods
  • The Vuitton investigators asked to be appointed by the district court in New York to prosecute a criminal contempt action against Klayminc
  • The New York courted appointed the investigators (who were also attorneys) as special counsels to criminally prosecute Klayminc

Procedural History

  • After their court appointment, the Vuitton investigators file a criminal contempt motion against Klayminc.
  • Klayminc lost in the trial in New York for violating the settlement with Vuitton.
  • The Klaymincs also lost in the appeal process in New York.


Can counsel for a party that's a beneficiary of a court order be appointed as a criminal prosecutor in a contempt action alleging violation of that order?


  • The Klaymincs argued that their rights to an impartial prosecutor had been violated.
  • The Klaymincs argued that the New York court shouldn't have appointed the Vuitton lawyers as criminal prosecutors.


No. Counsel for a party that's a beneficiary of a court order can't be appointed as prosecutor in a contempt action alleging a violation of that order.




In this case, the district court in New York didn't refer the case to a United States Attorney (federal government official lawyers) before appointing a private special prosecutor that worked for Vuitton.


William J. Brennan Jr. : Conflict-of-interest rules govern representation; thus, when private attorneys are given a contract to represent the United States government, the prosecutors must pursue the public's interest.