Nov 5
4:47 PM

Throw back a fish, go to federal prison?!?


The US Supreme court heard oral arguments today in Yates v. United States. At issue in the case is whether a  fisherman who throws undersized grouper back into the sea to avoid civil penalties has committed a crime under a Sarbanes-Oxley provision that prohibits knowingly concealing, altering, or destroy “any record, document, or tangible object” with the intent to impede a federal investigation.

Oral arguments were punctuated by laughter, fish puns, and some incredulous exclamations. Justice Scalia asked “what kind of mad prosecutor” would use the Sarbanes-Oxley anti-shredding provision in a case like this one? When the Assistant U.S. Solicitor General characterized the fisherman as having ordered the destruction of evidence, disobeyed a federal officer, and orchestrated a cover-up scheme, Chief Justice Roberts exclaimed, “You make him sound like a mob boss.”

It seems our own Professor Kevin Cole was equally incredulous about the government’s prosecution of this case. He was one of 18 law professors who submitted an amicus brief (PDF in the case).

For a quick overview of the case:

For a synopsis of oral arguments:

For the transcript of oral arguments:


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