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Supreme Court To Decide If Sarbanes-Oxley Applies To Fish

One of the cases that the Supreme Court accepted for review today presents a rather unique legal question:

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will decide next term whether a Florida fisherman who got rid of three undersized grouper was improperly prosecuted under the Sarbanes-Oxley law, which Congress passed in response to a series of financial scandals at Enron and other major corporations.

The court without comment said it would review the conviction of commercial fisherman John L. Yates. He disposed of three fish that an inspector said were not the minimum 20 inches required of red grouper taken from the Gulf of Mexico.

(…)

Several legal groups, including the association of criminal defense lawyers, urged the court to take the case. One group, Cause of Action, said the case was about government overreach.

“This law is supposed to protect citizens from the destruction of corporate documents designed to conceal financial crimes,” the group said in a press release. “Yet the government applied the law to Mr. Yates for throwing overboard grouper that were an inch or less too short.”

While I haven’t reviewed the case in detail, I’d have to agree that this sounds like overreach to me as well.  The case is Yates v. United States.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s certainly something fishy about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    The law was to fight financial fraud, not actions of this scale. Whoever pushed this prosecution was just floundering for things to do. It doesn’t come even close to passing the smelt test. It should be dismissed at the first herring. The fisherman? Eel be back on the water in no time.

    And yes, I used all those words on porpoise.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  3. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Well played.

    I think all you were missing is a “doing this for the halibut” and you would have score a perfect 10 on the pun-o-meter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. al-Ameda says:

    I’m not sure that this will have an effect but, Legal counsel for Flipper just filed an Amicus Curiae brief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. JWH says:

    Do I upvote or downvote Dave and Jenos’s comments?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Matt Bernius: I knew I missed one. You sure know how to make me feel crappie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @JWH:
    You always up-vote puns. ALWAYS!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Sometimes you just have to knock someone off their perch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. JWH says:

    Somewhere, some contract attorney is quietly sobbing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Moosebreath says:

    I don’t find this case the least bit finny.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. rudderpedals says:

    I can’t skate here anymore. Someone throw a line.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. LC says:

    While I haven’t reviewed the case in detail, I’d have to agree that this sounds like overreach to me as well.

    Shorter Doug: I haven’t read the case and don’t know what I’m talking about, but FREEDOM!

    Srsly, just make yourself a macro for this kind of post

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @LC: Let me explain it to you, dumbass:

    1) SarbOx covers the destruction of evidence of wrongdoing in business.

    2) In one light, the undersized fish are “evidence” that the fisherman caught illegal fish.

    3) By throwing the fish back, they are “destroying” the evidence of their catching undersized fish.

    So, by an incredibly stupid but plausible rationale, there is an argument here. It should be laughed out of court because, by returning the fish, they are at least plausibly trying to help the fish as a whole, and “preserving the evidence” would actually cause more harm than good.

    This is a case of some bureaucrat looking for a way to justify their paycheck, and being as incredibly stupid as only a bureaucrat can be. And as such, is fully entitled to mockery and derision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  14. bill says:

    i’ll have to assume the fish were dead or there’d be no issue? all in all it’s beyond the realm of over reach. good puns jenos btw!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    by returning the fish, they are at least plausibly trying to help the fish as a whole

    How does throwing back dead or dying fish trying to help the fish as a whole?
    To be clear, I think the case itself is inappropriate, but he was trying to dispose of evidence, not help the fish. He should face whatever fine is in place for the illegal catch and perhaps a fine for attempting to dispose of the evidence, but SO is overreach and if upheld will be bad precedent.

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Credit where credit is due though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0