Monday, August 15, 2005

Sixth Amendment Right to Jury Trial Applies to Corporations

In an unpublished decision, United States v. Four Pillars Enterprise Company, Ltd., et al, No. 03-4091, -92, -93 (6th Cir. 8/12/05), the Sixth Circuit has found that the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial applies to corporations. With the individual defendants under fugitive status after fleeing to Taiwan, the corporate defendant raised a Booker claim in a letter brief. Noting that it needed to decide "whether the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury applies to corporations", the Court pointed out that the Supreme Court has provided little guidance in this area, but that the Sixth Circuit had applied the Sixth Amendment in "serious" criminal contempt cases. With those precedents in mind, the Court held "that Four Pillars's status as a corporation does not render the Sixth Amendment inapplicable.
Without attempting to define precisely at what point a fine becomes "serious" (and, so, implicates the Sixth Amendment right to jury trial), the Court found that a $2 million fine was stringent enough to meet that standard, and that since the amount of the fine had been enhanced for amount of loss under the Guidelines, its imposition was plain error under Oliver, necessitating remand for re-sentencing.

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