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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

An Interesting Upcoming Case About Fish and Statutory Interpretation

The Supreme Court will hear the case, Yates v. United States, during its October term in 2014. Scotusblog has the details of the case here. Here is the issue:

Issue: Whether Mr. Yates was deprived of fair notice that destruction of fish would fall within the purview of 18 U.S.C. § 1519, which makes it a crime for anyone who “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object” with the intent to impede or obstruct an investigation, where the term “tangible object” is ambiguous and undefined in the statute, and unlike the nouns accompanying “tangible object” in section 1519, possesses no record-keeping, documentary, or informational content or purpose.
Yates discusses his case here. Volokh Conspirators Eugene Volokh and Jonathan Adler have thoughts on the case, with Adler noting that this case raises important questions of how far federal criminal law can extend. Calvin Massey at The Faculty Lounge argues that law enforcement in this case overreached and that the charge in this case "is a mockery of the legislative intention." At Sentencing Law and Policy, Douglas Berman suggests that the Supreme Court could use this case to address concerns of federal overcriminalization. If the Court ends up going in that direction, the case could become a very big deal indeed.

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