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U.S. Supreme Court Overturns "Criminal" Conviction - Administration's Overreach Turned Back, Feb. 25, 2015

Yates v. United States, No. 13-7451

“Anti-Shredding” Financial Fraud Enforcement Against Commercial Fisherman Overturned

Feb. 25, 2015 - Washington, DC/Atlanta:       Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) today applauded the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the conviction of a commercial fisherman who was charged with a felony under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s “anti-shredding” financial fraud provision for tossing undersized fish overboard, which SLF argued in an amicus brief in the case at the merit stage was another glaring example of “overcriminalization” and demonstrated overreaching executive authority.

“The U.S. Supreme Court today struck a blow for common sense and limited government when it overturned the conviction of a commercial fisherman who tossed small fish overboard and was subsequently charged under a felony law designed to protect investors from financial fraud,” said Shannon L. Goessling, Southeastern Legal Foundation executive director and chief legal counsel.  “This is an important decision because the Court has once again pulled back  overzealous and overreaching executive power – including the so-called ‘overcriminalization’ phenomena we’ve witnesses over the past several years – consistently displayed during the Obama administration.”

The Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

"While conducting an offshore inspection of a commercial fishing vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, a federal agent found that the ship’s catch con­tained undersized red grouper, in violation of federal conservation regulations. The officer instructed the ship’s captain, petitioner Yates, to keep the undersized fish segregated from the rest of the catch until the ship returned to port. After the officer departed, Yates instead told a crew member to throw the undersized fish over­board. For this offense, Yates was charged with destroying, conceal­ing, and covering up undersized fish to impede a federal investiga­tion, in violation of 18 U. S. C. §1519. That section provides that a person may be fined or imprisoned for up to 20 years if he “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence” a federal investigation.”

Yates was convicted in a federal district court of violating Section 1519, a decision that was upheld at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Supreme Court overturned the decision.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, held that, “Section 1519 was enacted as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, 116 Stat. 745, legislation designed to protect investors and restore trust in financial markets following the collapse of Enron Corporation. A fish is no doubt an object that is tangible; fish can be seen, caught, and handled, and a catch, as this case illustrates, is vulnerable to destruction. But it would cut §1519 loose from its financial-fraud mooring to hold that it encompasses any and all objects, whatever their size or significance, de­stroyed with obstructive intent. Mindful that in Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress trained its attention on corporate and accounting deception and cover-ups, we conclude that a matching construction of §1519 is in order: A tangible object captured by §1519, we hold, must be one used to record or preserve information.”

Click here for U.S. Supreme Court decision

Click here for SLF amicus brief at merit stage


SLF Files Federal Lawsuit Against EPA - Stall, Deny, Redact Documents under FOIA, Feb. 10, 2015

ATLANTA, Feb. 10, 2015:  Southeastern Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) challenging its failure to produce documents, deny access to documents, and redaction of documents - 96 percent of more than 3,000 pages produced by EPA were redacted - under the Freedom of Information Act.  Click here for the complete statement and complaint.


SLF Back in U.S. Court of Appeals on EPA Air Quality Final Order

Brief - U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia - SLF filed amicus brief with Intervenor San Miguel Electric Cooperative, Inc. on Petition for Review of Final Order of the U.S. EPA, challenging the EPA's arbitrary and capricious Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) as a threat to the integrity of the U.S. power grid, 12-14-14 Download Here



As posted at, SLF's Shannon Goessling details the background behind the constitutional violations when elections officials in Douglas County, Georgia threatened a voter wearing an NRA Instructor hat:  "No hat, or no vote."

Click here for op-ed article



ATLANTA, GA/Dec. 8, 2014:  Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, challenging the unconstitutional actions of Douglas County, GA elections officials who denied Douglasville resident Bundy Cobb the right to vote unless he removed his National Rifle Association (NRA) Instructor hat.  Cobb, who was voting early in the general election, was told his hat was forbidden as illegal "electioneering" - his choice:  Remove the hat to vote, or face potential arrest, imprisonment, and a fine.  Bundy is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief "to ensure that this doesn't happen again to anyone."  See complete media statement and court filing below.

Click here for media statement

Click here for Complaint as filed in U.S. District Court (Bundy v. Douglas County, et al)



Oct. 18, 2014:  Published in, regular contributor Shannon Goessling, SLF Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel, discusses recent federal court decisions striking down voter photo ID laws as unconstitutional because obtaining them is "too much burden."  Goessling points out that, if the same analysis is applied to other U.S. citizen duties like jury duty, military service, and other civic interactions with our government are in jeopardy, too - after all, those duties require action and cause "burdens" - see inside for more...

Click here for op-ed article in


WAR ON COAL FORMAL PUBLIC COMMENTS FROM SLF - Next Round in Climate Change Battle with Obama's EPA

Oct. 16, 2014:   The Southeastern Legal Foundation today filed a formal Public Comment in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest gambit to crush the American coal industry, the Obama administration's so-called "war on coal," and along with it, more than a million jobs, spikes in energy costs to consumers, and another example of the violation of Congressional intent and separation of powers.

The EPA's Proposed Rule, "Carbon Pollution Standards for Modified and Reconstructed Stationary Sources:  Electric Generating Units; Proposed Rule" 79 Fed. Reg. 34959 (June 18, 2014), proposes unilateral restrictions on coal and gas-fired electric generating facilities that are "out of bounds" and "well-beyond what Congress clearly intended in existing law," according to Shannon Goessling, SLF executive director and chief legal counsel.  SLF won a decisive Supreme Court victory earlier this year challenging the EPA's "climate change" rules.

The currrent Public Comment period, much like it's "climate change" predecessor, will be the first round in administrative and legal challenges against the enactment of the Proposed Rule.  "We are preparing our legal strategy under the assumption that the Obama administration's EPA will go ahead with the Proposed Rule despite the fact that they lost a similar effort in the Supreme Court earlier this year," said Goessling.

Click here for SLF's filed formal Public Comment


RAISINS & PROPERTY RIGHTS: Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court, Oct. 10, 2014

October 10, 2014:  Southeastern Legal Foundation joins CATO Institute, National Federation of Independent Business, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Institute for Justice, and Reason Foundation in filing an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of Marvin and Lena Horne and California raisin growers seeking review of the latest Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals outrage – allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay nothing for crops mandated to be turned over to them under a New Deal-era law.  In 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously rebuffed the government’s attempt against the Hornes and California raisin growers to make property owners sue twice  - once in federal district court and once in the Court of Claims – to vindicate property rights.  Now, the Hornes are back in court, challenging the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that upheld the government scheme forcing growers to fork over the fruits of their labor with no hope of covering their expenses or, in some cases, any compensation at all.  This critical case raises fundamental constitutional issues of just compensation for government “takings” of personal and real property.  (Marvin D. Horne, et al. v. United States Department of Agriculture, No. 14-275).

Click here for amicus brief



August 6, 2014 - Southeastern Legal Foundation today submitted an amicus curiae brief in the ongoing race-based admissions litigation, Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  The new amicus brief supports the request for a rehearing en banc by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which earlier this year upheld the race-based admissions program used by the University - despite a clear and decisive decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 striking down the program as unconstitutional and remanding it back to the Fifth Circuit with instructions to review the program using strict scrutiny, which the high court held was not properly applied in the earlier Fifth Circuit decision.

Click here for news release

Click here for SLF amicus brief


SUPREME COURT STOPS EPA'S OVERREACH - Washington Examiner, July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014 - SLF's executive director and chief legal counsel, Shannon Goessling, counters EPA and environmentalist analysis of the long-awaited EPA climate change decision in The Washington Examiner.  Rather than the "slight victory" claimed by the EPA and White House, the Supreme Court in June slams the door on regulatory rewriting of existing law without Congressional approval - and ensures that millions of Americans will not be subjected to greenhouse gas emissions permitting by the EPA.

Click here for the entire Washington Examiner article