UNITED STATES v. SUN-DIAMOND GROWERS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
98-131
Petitioner 
United States
Respondent 
Sun-Diamond Growers
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
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Facts of the Case 

Sun-Diamond Growers of California (Sun-Diamond), an agricultural trade association, was charged with violating a federal statute that prohibited the giving of anything valuable to a present, past, or future official "for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official." Sun-Diamond's indictment alleged that it gave illegal gratuities to former Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy while he was considering two matters in which Sun-Diamond had a vested interest. The indictment, however, did not claim a connection between the gratuities in question and either of the matters under Espy's review. Based on this lack of connectivity, Sun-Diamond challenged its indictment but lost in district court. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reserved part of the district court decision and the government appealed. Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Question 

Must there be a specific link between the giving of a gratuity to a government official and the latter's performance of a specific act in order to sustain an illegal-gratuity-statute conviction?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Sun-Diamond Growers, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 201

Yes. In a unanimous opinion, the Court held that to sustain conviction for federal bribery there must be a clear quid pro quo link between the gratuity received and performance of a specific past, present, or future "official" act. The Court reasoned that a statutory interpretation that punished the giving of any gifts to public officials would not fit comfortably with the legislation's spirit and traditions. The Court noted that the giving of gratuities to officials, by virtue of their position, is not the same as bribery of officials for the performance of specific conduct.

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UNITED STATES v. SUN-DIAMOND GROWERS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_131>.
UNITED STATES v. SUN-DIAMOND GROWERS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_131 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"UNITED STATES v. SUN-DIAMOND GROWERS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1998/1998_98_131.