Environment Prosecutions for March 2013
Table 1: Criminal Environment Prosecutions
The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during March 2013 the government reported 40 new environment prosecutions.
According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 4.8% over the previous month.
The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with environment-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom
of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. (See Table 1)
When monthly 2013 prosecutions of this type are compared with those of the same period in
the previous year, the number of filings was down (-50 percent).
Prosecutions over the past year are still much lower than they were five years ago.
Overall, the data show that prosecutions of this type are down 34.3 percent from levels reported in 2008.
The dip in
these cases is partly related to increases in the matters filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. If magistrate cases
are excluded and only Federal District Court cases are counted, the overall decrease in
environment prosecutions is 21.9 percent instead of 34.3 percent.
The evidence suggests that part of the difference may be the result of improvements in the recording of the magistrate cases
by the Justice Department.
Figure 1: Monthly trends in environment prosecutions
The decrease from the levels five years ago in environment prosecutions for these matters is shown more clearly in Figure 1.
The vertical bars in Figure 1
represent the number of environment prosecutions of this type recorded on a month-to-month
basis. Where a prosecution was initially filed in U.S. Magistrate Court and then transferred to the U.S. District Court,
the magistrate filing date was used since this provides an earlier indicator of actual trends.
The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so
that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. The one and five-year rates of change in Table 1 and in the sections that follow are all based upon this six-month moving average. To view trends year-by-year rather than month-by-month, see TRAC's annual report series for a broader picture.
Within the broad category of environment, cases were classified by prosecutors into more specific types.
Case types within environment are
The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in March 2013 was for "Environ-Wildlife Protection", accounting for 60 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Environ-Environmental Crimes" (37.5%), "
Environ-Marine Resources" (2.5%).
See Figure 2.
The lead investigative agency for environment prosecutions in March 2013
was Interior accounting for 60 percent of prosecutions referred.
Other agencies with substantial numbers of environment referrals were:
DHS (20% ), EPA (13%), Agri (3%), Commerce (3%).
See Figure 3.
Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions
Figure 3: Prosecutions by investigative agency
Environment Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts
Top Ranked Lead Charges
In March 2013, 4 defendants
in environment cases for these matters were
filed in U.S. Magistrate Courts. These courts handle less serious
misdemeanor cases, including what are called "petty offenses." In
addition, complaints are sometimes filed in the magistrate courts before
an indictment or information is entered. In these cases, the matter
starts in the magistrate courts and later moves to the district court
where subsequent proceedings take place.
In the magistrate courts in March the most frequently cited lead charge was
Title 16 U.S.C Section 703 involving the "Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds". This was the lead charge
for 50 percent of all magistrate filings in March.
Environment Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts
In March 2013, 36 defendants in new cases
for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during March there
were an additional 1 defendants whose cases moved from the magistrate
courts to the U.S. district courts after an indictment or information
was filed. The sections which follow cover both sets of cases and
therefore cover all matters filed in district court during March.
Top Ranked Lead Charges
Table 2 shows the top lead charges recorded in the prosecutions of environment matters
filed in U.S. District Court during March 2013.
Table 2: Top charges filed
"Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds" (Title 16 U.S.C Section 703) and "Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts" (Title 16 U.S.C Section 3372) were the most frequent recorded lead charges.
Ranked 3rd were "Bald and golden eagles" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 668 and "Nat'l emission standards hazardous air pollutants" under Title 42 U.S.C Section 7412.
Top Ranked Judicial Districts
In March 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 14.5 environment prosecutions for every ten million people in the United States.
Understandably, there is great variation in the number of environment prosecutions that are filed in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.
The districts registering the
largest number of prosecutions of this type last month are shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Top 10 districts
The District of South Dakota—with 8 prosecutions—was the most active during March 2013.
The Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson) ranked 2nd.
Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) and Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) are now ranking 3rd.
Top Ranked District Judges
At any one time, there are about 680 federal District Court judges working in the United States. The judges recorded with the largest number of new environment crime cases of this type during March 2013 are shown in Table 4.
All 15 of the "top ten" judges were in districts which were in the top ten with the largest number of environment filings . (Because of ties, there were a total of 15 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)
Judge John E. Simko in the District of South Dakota ranked 1st with 8 defendants in environment cases.
Judge David C. Bramlette, III in the Southern District of Mississippi (Jackson) ranked 2nd with 6 defendants in environment cases.
Judge Mark Steven Davis in the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) ranked 3rd with 3 defendants in environment cases.
Report Generated: May 9, 2013