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CRM 1-499

217. Subscription

Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(c), provides, among other things, that the foreperson of the grand jury "shall sign all indictments." This requirement is satisfied by his signature below the endorsement, "A True Bill." Jones v. Pescor, 169 F.2d 853, 855 (8th Cir. 1948). The fact that by inadvertence the indictment is unsigned when handed to the clerk is not fatal where the foreperson appears thereafter in open court and signs it in the presence of the grand jury. See United States v. Long, 118 F. Supp. 857 (D.P.R. 1954).

Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c), provides that the indictment and information "shall be signed by the attorney for the government." If the attorney for the government refuses to sign, which is within his or her discretion, there is no indictment. This provision of Rule 7 recognizes the power of government counsel "to permit or not to permit the initiation of a prosecution." See United States v. Cox, 342 F.2d 167 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 381 U.S. 935 (1965); In Re Grand Jury January, 1969, 315 F. Supp. 662 (D.Md. 1970). See also United States v. Adu, 82 F.3d 119, 123 (6th Cir. 1996).

Fed.R.Crim. P. 1(b) defines the phrase "attorney for the government" to include the Attorney General, an authorized assistant of the Attorney General, a United States Attorney, an authorized assistant of a United States Attorney, and certain other persons in cases arising under the laws of Guam. An indictment may be signed in the name of the United States Attorney by an assistant who is authorized to sign the United States Attorney's name. See Wheatley v. United States, 159 F.2d 599 (4th Cir. 1946); United States v. Funkhouser, 198 F. Supp. 708 (D.Md. 1961), opinion adopted, 299 F.2d 940 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 370 U.S. 939, reh'g denied, 371 U.S. 854 (1962). In turn there is nothing impermissible in having a high ranking Justice Department official's signature on an indictment. See United States v. Climatemp, Inc., 482 F. Supp. 376 (N.D. Ill. 1979).

The fact that the name of the attorney for the government is typewritten does not affect the indictment when the question is not raised before trial. See Wiltsey v. United States, 222 F.2d 600 (4th Cir. 1955). The courts have reasoned that the signature of the United States Attorney, like the caption, is not a part of the indictment and serves only to evidence the authenticity of the indictment and the government's consent to prosecution. The manner in which it is signed is therefore not such a defect as would invalidate the indictment.

[updated October 2012]