Obstruction of Justice in Civil Discovery

18 U.S.C. § 1503 prohibits obstruction of justice. Section 1503’s omnibus or “catch-all” clause is broadly written:

Whoever . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection

18 U.S.C. § 1503(a). The omnibus clause is also broadly applied: obstruction of justice includes non-coercive conduct (like assisting witnesses with the evasion of subpoenas), baseless filings (like a lien on a judge’s property or a notice charging the judge was sedition), and conduct which does not actually succeed in impeding justice. One limitation is that obstruction of justice does require a pending federal proceeding. However, this proceeding can be a civil case: section 1503 “is broad enough to cover the attempted corruption of a prospective witness in a civil action in a Federal District Court.” Roberts v. United States, 239 F.2d 467, 470 (9th Cir. 1956). Cf., e.g., United States v. Lundwall, 1 F. Supp. 2d 249 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (refusing to dismiss indictment under section 1503 for corporate executives who destroyed documents while litigating a civil discrimination lawsuit). Given the breadth of section 1503’s omnibus clause and its application to civil cases, section 1503 should have broad application to improper interference with discovery in a federal civil case.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.