Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States case brief

Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States case brief summary
544 U.S. 696 (2005)

On certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, who had affirmed the conviction of petitioner audit firm of obstruction of justice and witness tampering under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1512(b)(2)(A), (B) (amended), the United States Supreme Court addressed the firm's challenge that the jury instructions failed to convey properly the elements of "knowingly" and "corrupt persuasion."


  • "Knowledge" and "knowingly" were associated with awareness, understanding, or consciousness. 
  • "Corrupt" and "corruptly" were associated with wrongful, immoral, depraved, or evil. 
  • Under § 1512(b), only persons conscious of wrongdoing could "knowingly corruptly persuade." 
  • The jury was told it could convict even if the firm honestly believed its conduct was lawful; it failed to convey a required consciousness of wrongdoing. 
  • The instructions also diluted the meaning of "corruptly" by telling the jury to convict if it found the firm intended, by suggesting that employees enforce a document retention policy, to "subvert, undermine, or impede" governmental factfinding. 
  • Excluding "dishonestly" and adding "impede" to "subvert or undermine" was significant. As to such innocent conduct, the "corruptly" instructions did no limiting work at all. 
  • The instructions also eliminated the required nexus between a "persuasion" to destroy documents and any particular proceeding. 
  • A "knowingly corrupt persuader" could not be one who persuaded others to shred documents under a document retention policy when he did not contemplate any particular official proceeding in which the documents could be material.

The decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was reversed and remanded.

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