Federal Civil Procedure-Existence of Federal Cause of Action for Abuse of Federal Process
Petitioner was served with a subpoena ordering him to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He subsequently brought an action in federal district court asking for damages and injunctive relief and praying that the subpoena be declared void and of no effect. He alleged it had been signed in blank by the Committee chairman and that respondent, an investigator for the Committee without delegated subpoena power, had filled in petitioner’s name without authorization and caused it to be served on him at his place of employment. Petitioner also alleged that respondent intended to subject him to public shame and ridicule when and if he appeared as a witness, and that respondent knew that service on him in such a manner would result in his loss of employment. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction of the subject matter, holding that the case was not ripe for equitable relief and that no federal cause of action for damages had been stated. On appeal the circuit court reversed with respect to the jurisdictional question and remanded the case. The district court then dismissed the complaint without opinion, and the court of appeals affirmed on the ground that respondent was immune from suit. On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, held, affirmed. No federal cause of action is stated, for the facts do not establish a violation of the fourth amendment, Congress has not enacted legislation to give rise to such a right of action, and the case is not one in which the Court will fashion a right out of the federal common law. Wheeldin v. Wheeler, 373 U.S. 647 (1963).