Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Supreme Court Grants Cert. Petition in Fischer v. United States

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted the Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed in Fischer v. United States, one of three cases in which the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit interpreted 18 U.S.C. Section 1512(c) in the context of the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. In addition to its importance in the prosecution and conviction of January 6 protesters and Donald Trump, the case has potentially broad implications for federal white collar criminal law. This is because it involves the proper interpretation of the word "corruptly", a term that appears frequently in federal white collar statutes. Title 18, U.S.C. Section 1512 is titled, "Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant." Section 1512(c) provides that:

"(c) Whoever corruptly-

(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object's integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or

(2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."

The immediate question in Fischer was whether Section 1512(c)(2) applied to January 6 protesters who delayed Congressional counting and certification of electoral votes from the 2020 Presidential election.  Section 1515 of Title 18 defines an "official proceeding", as used in Section 1512, as "a proceeding before the Congress." The government argued that the January 6 riot obstructed an official proceeding, because it obstructed a proceeding before the Congress. To the government, it was a matter of straightforward textual interpretation. The defense argued that that the history and structure of 1512(c)(2), passed as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (in response to the Enron scandal) to fix a loophole in the federal obstruction of justice statutes, showed that the statute only applied to classic efforts to obstruct evidentiary proceedings. More to come on this important case.

Attached is the Petition for Writ of Certiorari that was granted by the Supreme Court. Fischer v. United States-Petition For A Writ Of certiorari.



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