November 26, 2004
Export Control Case
Last week was not a good week for some individuals associated with Fiber Materials, Inc and Materials International, Inc. That's because the First Circuit vacated a judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict and reinstated defendants' convictions. The court remanded the case back to the District Court. (The court was not willing to accept the double jeopardy or vagueness arguments of the defendants.)
In United States v. Lachman, the court was interpreting an Export Administration Act regulation that used the term "specifically designed." The court decided that this term should be interpreted by looking at the text and purpose of the statute. The court rejected, and admits to rejecting, a rule of statutory construction that looks at "identical words used in different parts of the same act."
The Export Administration Act provides the Commerce Department with authority over the export of goods and technology for commercial use, and also over items with a dual purpose use of both commercial or military. The Act's congressional findings emphasize the need to balance international commerce and national security. My guess is that national security will have the winning argument in most cases these days and that attorneys representing corporations handling dual purpose items should be especially careful.
[Editor's note: This posting has been corrected by deleting a sentence which stated that the First Circuit did not consider the Rule of Lenity in reaching its decision. The opinion states in a brief footnote that the rule is not relevant to its analysis. Thanks to Michael Zara of Bryan Cave LLP for pointing out the error in the original post.]