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Southern Union Company v. United States, USSC No. 11-94, cert granted 11/28/11

Question Presented (composed by Scotusblog): 

Whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendment principles that this Court established in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and its progeny, apply to the imposition of criminal fines.

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Petitioner, a natural gas company, was found guilty by jury of one count of knowingly storing mercury without a permit, 42 U.S.C. § 6928(d)(2)(A). The jury wasn’t called upon to find such storage for more than one day, and the penalty provision of 42 U.S.C. § 6928(d) provides for a fine of “not more than $50,000 for each day of violation.” The district court nonetheless imposed a fine of $38.1 million dollars, representing the 762 days alleged in the indictment times the maximum allowed for each day of violation. Simply put, the question is whether Apprendi applies to fines – if so, then the maximum fine should be 50k. As the Brief in Opposition concedes, the “Court has never taken up ‘the question of whether the imposition of a fine falls under the Apprendi rule.'” Now it has.

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