Taken from the briefing Corporate Crime: Southern Union v. United States and Other Key Supreme Court Decisions of the 2011-2012 Term recorded June, 2012.
On June 21, 2012, the Supreme Court decided Southern Union v. United States, holding that the Apprendi rule extends to facts that increase the maximum fines in criminal cases. Apprendi ruled that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum,” other than a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
In Southern Union, the defendant company was convicted after a jury trial of having knowingly stored liquid mercury without a permit in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). Violations of RCRA are punishable by fines of up to $50,000 per day of violation. At sentencing, the probation office calculated a maxi¬mum fine of $38.1 million, based on its conclusion that Southern Union illegally stored mercury for more than two years. Southern Union objected that the maximum fine should be $50,000, as the jury had not made any findings as to the duration of the RCRA violation, although it necessarily found in returning a guilty verdict that Southern Union violated the law for at least one day. The district court rejected this argument and imposed a fine of $6 million and a “community service obligation” of $12 million. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the jury had to make a factual finding as to the number of days Southern Union was in violation before the trial court could impose a sentence in excess of $50,000.
Southern Union is a case of critical importance to corporate criminal defendants, for which a fine is the most common kind of criminal punishment.
Lecture Topics [Total Time: 01:01:25]
- Discusses Southern Union in detail and explores the implications of the decision
- Explores other decisions from the recent Supreme Court Term that affect the investigation, prosecution, and defense of white collar and corporate criminal cases
- Looks ahead to the next Term
- Corporate Crime: Southern Union v. United States and Other Key Supreme Court Decisions of the 2011-2012 Term (Handout)
Jessie K. Liu
- Corporate Crime: Southern Union v. United States and Other Key Supreme Court Decisions of the 2011-2012 Term
Jessie K. Liu
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