Sunday, March 4th, 2007

Statute Prohibiting Forgery of Judicial Signature or Seal Does Not Require Proof of Intent to Defraud

United States v. Reich, Docket No. 06-1445-cr (2d Cir. Mar. 2, 2007) (Kearse, Sotomayor, Koeltl): This opinion principally holds that 18 U.S.C. § 505, which makes it a crime to “forge[] the signature of any judge … of any court of the United States … or forge[] or counterfeit[] the seal of any such court . . . ” does not require proof of an intent to defraud. This holding aligns the Second Circuit with the Tenth, see United States v. Cowan, 116 F.3d 1360 (10th Cir. 1997), and against the Sixth, see Levinson v. United States, 47 F.2d 470 (6th Cir. 1931). The Circuit’s lengthy exegesis of why this is so, see Op. 13-18, is interesting for those who care about this issue.

The opinion also unsurprisingly holds, though technically as a matter of first impression in this Circuit, that the particular version of the obstruction law embodied in 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) — punishing anyone who “corruptly … obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so” — includes a “nexus” requirement. That is, the defendant’s allegedly obstructive act must “have a relationship in time, causation, or logic with the judicial proceedings; in other words, the endeavor must have the natural and probable effect of interfering with the due administration of justice.” Op. 10-11 (quoting United States v. Aguilar, 515 U.S. 593, 599 (1995)).

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