Environment Prosecutions for November 2013

Number Latest Month 27
Percent Change from previous month -12.9
Percent Change from 1 year ago -5.2
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Including Magistrate Court) -36.9
Percent Change from 5 years ago (Excluding Magistrate Court) -9.1
Table 1: Criminal Environment Prosecutions

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during November 2013 the government reported 27 new environment prosecutions. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 12.9% 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 (-5.2 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 36.9 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 9.1 percent instead of 36.9 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.

Plot of _FREQ_ by FYMONDT

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

  • Illegal Discharge of Toxic, Hazardous or Carcinogenic Waste

  • Wildlife Protection

  • Marine Resources

  • Environmental Crime

The largest number of prosecutions of these matters in November 2013 was for "Environ-Wildlife Protection", accounting for 59.3 percent of prosecutions. Prosecutions were also filed for "Environ-Environmental Crimes" (40.7%). See Figure 2.

The lead investigative agency for environment prosecutions in November 2013 was Interior accounting for 44 percent of prosecutions referred. Other agencies with substantial numbers of environment referrals were: EPA (33% ), FBI (11%), DHS (7%). See Figure 3.

Pie chart of progcatlabel

Figure 2: Specific types of prosecutions
Pie chart of agenrevgrp

Figure 3: Prosecutions by investigative agency

Environment Prosecutions in U.S. Magistrate Courts

Top Ranked Lead Charges

In November 2013, 5 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 November the most frequently cited lead charge was Title 33 U.S.C Section 1319 involving the "Water Pollution - Enforcement". This was the lead charge for 40 percent of all magistrate filings in November.

Environment Prosecutions in U.S. District Courts

In November 2013, 22 defendants in new cases for these matters were charged in the U.S. District Courts. In addition during November there were an additional 0 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 November.

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 November 2013.

Lead Charge Count Rank  
16 USC 354 - National Parks, etc. - Offenses, punishment 3 1 More
18 USC 371 - Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US 3 1 More
16 USC 703 - Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds 2 3 More
16 USC 1538 - Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts 2 3 More
16 USC 3372 - Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts 2 3 More
18 USC 1001 - Fraud/false statements or entries generally 2 3 More
33 USC 1311 - Effluent limitations - Water Pollution 2 3 More
33 USC 1319 - Water Pollution - Enforcement 2 3 More
42 USC 7413 - Air Pollution Prevention and Control - Fed strd 2 3 More
16 USC 668 - Bald and golden eagles 1 10 More
18 USC 1505 - Obstruction of proceedings before departments, etc 1 10 More
Table 2: Top charges filed

  • "National Parks, etc. - Offenses, punishment" (Title 16 U.S.C Section 354) and "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud US" (Title 18 U.S.C Section 371) were the most frequent recorded lead charges.

  • Ranked 3rd were "Taking, killing, or possessing migratory birds" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 703, "Endangered Species - Prohibitive acts" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 1538, "Illegally Taken Fish & Wildlife - prohibited acts" under Title 16 U.S.C Section 3372, "Fraud/fals e statements or entries generally" under Title 18 U.S.C Section 1001, "Effluent limitations - Water Pollution" under Title 33 U.S.C Section 1311, "Water Pollution - Enforcement" under Title 33 U.S.C Section 1319 and "Air Pollution Prevention an.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

In November 2013 the Justice Department said the government brought 8.4 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.

Judicial District Count Rank  
Cal, C 3 1 More
Wash, W 3 1 More
Hawaii 2 3 More
La, E 2 3 More
Ohio, S 2 3 More
S Dakota 2 3 More
Alaska 1 7 More
D. C. 1 7 More
Kansas 1 7 More
Ken, E 1 7 More
Miss, S 1 7 More
New Hamp 1 7 More
Texas, E 1 7 More
Wyoming 1 7 More
Table 3: Top 10 districts

  • The Central District of California (Los Angeles) and Western District of Washington (Seattle)—with 3 prosecutions—were the most active during November 2013.

  • District of Hawaii, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans), Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati) and District of South Dakota 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 November 2013 are shown in Table 4.

Judge Count Rank  
Creatura, J. Richard Wash, W 3 1 More
Watson, Derrick Kahala Hawaii 2 2 More
Marbley, Algenon L. Ohio, S 2 2 More
Simko, John E. S Dakota 2 2 More
Gleason, Sharon Louise Alaska 1 5 More
Boasberg, James Emanuel D. C. 1 5 More
Robinson, Julie A. Kansas 1 5 More
Wier, Robert E. Ken, E 1 5 More
Berrigan, Helen Ginger La, E 1 5 More
Vance, Sarah S. La, E 1 5 More
Ozerden, Halil Suleyman Miss, S 1 5 More
Laplante, Joseph Normand New Hamp 1 5 More
Crone, Marcia A. Texas, E 1 5 More
Rankin, Kelly H. Wyoming 1 5 More
Table 4: Top 10 judges

All 14 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 14 judges in the "top ten" rankings.)

  • Judge J. Richard Creatura in the Western District of Washington (Seattle) ranked 1st with 3 defendants in environment cases.

  • Judges Derrick Kahala Watson in the District of Hawaii, Algenon L. Marbley in the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati) and John E. Simko in the District of South Dakota ranked 2nd with 2 defendants in environment cases .

Report Generated: January 31, 2014
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