Yates v United States

Yates was cited for capturing undersize fish and later threw the undersize fish overboard. He was charged and convicted of violating 18 USC 1519 for destroying a tangible object with intent to impede a federal investigation. The 11th Circuit affirmed. The Court 5(4 member plurality and one justice concurring in judgment)-4, reversed. The plurality argued that using normal tools of statutory construction such as captions, location of the statue in the US Code, the fact that 1519 was passed to prevent future Enrons, the fact that other sections passed later deal broadly with destruction of evidence and because the government positon would effectively make anyone who gets rid of anything potentially liable to 20 years imprisonment, lenity all suggest that a narrow reading limiting “tangible objects” to items used in recordkeeping of information storage is the per construction. Justice Alito concurred in judgment arguing that the nouns, verbs and title of 1519 all point to recordkeeping as the focus of 1519 and fish are not objects used in recordkeeping. The dissent argued that 1519 is clear and fish are an object that can be touched as thus is covered. It also argued the legislative history also points to a broad reading. While agreeing 1519 is an example of the over criminalization and over punishment found in the US Code, the dissent argued it is Congress that must solve that problem not the Court.

North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v Federal Trade Commission

Commission field an administrative complaint alleging Board had violated antitrust law by issuing cease and desist letters to teeth whiting service providers who were not dentists. Commission rejected Board’s state actor defense and this was affirmed by the 4th Circuit. The Court, 6-3, affirmed. The majority held that entities claiming state actor status must prove active supervision by accountable state officials. Here, 75% of the Board members are dentists elected by dentists, there is no way for elected officials to remove them or veto their actions nor is there the broad economic activities and interest that a municipality undertakes. Thus, the majority upheld the commission’s rejection. It also noted that how much supervision and what forms it must take are fact intensive questions that will need to be resolved on a case by case basis. The dissent argued that state actor immunity is available to all state agencies, Board is an agency of north Carolina as it is created by statute and charged with enforcing certain polices in conjunction with other agencies and that should be the end of the case. It noted that the majority’s concerns about regulatory capture will place states in the position of having to guess how to structure professional licensing boards without any clear guidance on the matter.