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U.S. Supreme Court asked to review DeCoster v. U.S.

A writ of certiorari has been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting the high court review DeCoster v. United States. The government has until Feb. 15 to respond the writ.

Appellate attorney Peter D. Keisler asks in the writ that the Supreme Court consider the case because a ruling by the 8th U.S. District Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a district court permits imposition of a prison sentence for strict liability offenses, which Keisler contends conflicts with other circuit court decisions on the same issue.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-supreme-court-image7901303When the 8th Circuit decision came down last year, attorneys Jennifer M. Thomas and John Fleder, writing on their Hyman, Phelps & McNamara FDA Law Blog, labeled it “the biggest Park Doctrine ruling in over 40 years.”

They said it is the first case in decades to test the limits of the Park Doctrine, or the “Responsible Corporate Officer” law. The Supreme Court justices are now being asked whether the doctrine and law extends to imposing prison terms.

“Strict liability” means a responsible corporate official can be found guilty for a violation without having any personal knowledge of the offense. Jack and Peter Decoster, the owner and chief operating officer of Quality Egg LLC, were willing to plead guilty to a “strict liability” offense and, each paid $100,000 fines.

However, they appealed being sentenced to three months each in federal prison. Their appeal attracted broad support from organizations supporting free enterprise including the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S., the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers, the Washington Legal Foundation, and the Cata Institute. Amicus briefs were filed with the 8th Circuit by all of those organizations.

In the 8th Circuit, a three-judge panel went against the DeCosters on a 2-1 vote. The two judge majority found “vicarious liability” was not involved. Only a handful of 8th Circuit judges favored reviewing the three-judge panel’s ruling.

The DeCosters are free pending the outcome of the appeal process, which is now on hold until the Supreme Court decides if it will take the case.

While only a relative few cases that file for certiorari are heard by the Supreme Court, ones involving conflict among the circuit courts are in an improved position to be heard.

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