News Release

SCOTUS to Hear Fishy Case; Will Examine Use of post-Enron Law in Prosecution of Fisherman

Washington, DC (April 28, 2014) – Today, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a case highlighting the dangerous consequences stemming from the unconstitutional executive expansion of the federal law. In Yates v. United States, the government used a post-Enron anti-shredding statute to prosecute a fisherman for the disappearance of three fish from his shipping vessel.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has a long history of opposing the type of inappropriate prosecutorial overreach evident in this case. In the amicus brief NACDL filed supporting certiorari in Yates, it argued that prosecution in this case is a clear example of unconstitutional executive expansion of the federal law. NACDL’s amicus further shows how this kind of overcriminalization leads to ludicrous federal convictions for offenses that would be much better addressed through civil means. This very same issue is currently being examined by the House Judiciary Committees Task Force on Overcriminalization, which has held six substantive hearings on the subject of overcriminalization since its creation last May.

NACDL Amicus author William N. Shepherd said: "Overcriminalization of the federal law has become all too pervasive a problem in America. The post-Enron laws were not intended to be used to prosecute and convict a fisherman, but that is exactly what has happened here. This type of overreach by the government steps on the rights of all Americans. The Supreme Court’s interest in this case echoes a growing public concern with governmental overreach in the federal criminal law and I’m pleased the justices have agreed to hear the case."

NACDL’s amicus brief in Yates v. United States is available here.

To learn more about NACDL’s extensive work on the problem of overcriminalization in America, please visit

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Isaac Kramer, Public Affairs and Communications Assistant, (202) 465-7656 or 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.