Briggs v. Goodwin Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 


Case Description 

Briggs v. Goodwin is a case in which the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) led a team of lawyers in successfully defending leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, known as the “Gainesville Eight,” who were prosecuted in Florida for conspiring to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention. CCR’s jury challenge on the inclusion of women in juries in this case also formed the basis for a subsequent Supreme Court challenge on the issue.

In 1974, CCR filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the “Gainesville Eight,” members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Six of the plaintiffs had been acquitted of charges of conspiring to disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention, and two of them had been jailed for contempt of the deferral grand jury conducting that investigation. The plaintiffs claimed that Guy Goodwin, an attorney with the Department of Justice, lied under oath during the grand jury investigation to conceal a paid FBI informer who surfaced during the trial.

Goodwin, who had conducted numerous federal grand juries coming out of the anti-war movement, moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of prosecutorial immunity. The Court of Appeals ruled that such immunity was not absolute. Thereafter, however, the Supreme Court decided, in a wholly different case, that absolute immunity applies to police and government witnesses testifying in their official capacity—even when they lie.

Goodwin moved for a rehearing in light of that decision and was granted summary judgment. CCR filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was denied.