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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Fokker Servs. B.V. - 422 U.S. App. D.C. 65, 818 F.3d 733 (2016)

Rule:

The Speedy Trial Act excludes any period of time during which prosecution is deferred by the attorney for the Government pursuant to written agreement with the defendant, with the approval of the court, for the purpose of allowing the defendant to demonstrate his good conduct, 18 U.S.C.S. § 3161(h)(2). That provision doesn't confer free-ranging authority to scrutinize the prosecution's discretionary charging decisions. Rather, the appellate court reads the statute against the background of settled constitutional understandings under which authority over criminal charging decisions resides with the Executive, without the involvement of—and without oversight power in—the Judiciary.

Facts:

In this case, appellant Fokker Services voluntarily disclosed its potential violation of federal sanctions and export control laws. After extensive negotiations, the company and the government entered into an 18-month DPA, during which Fokker would continue cooperation with federal authorities and implementation of a substantial compliance program. In accordance with the DPA, the government filed criminal charges against the company, together with a joint motion to suspend the running of time under the Speedy Trial Act pending assessment of the company's adherence to the agreement's conditions. The district court denied the motion because, in the court's view, the prosecution had been too lenient in agreeing to, and structuring, the DPA. Among other objections, the court disagreed with prosecutors' decision to forgo bringing any criminal charges against individual company officers.

Issue:

Does the Act confers authority in a court to withhold exclusion of time pursuant to a DPA based on concerns that the government should bring different charges or should charge different defendants?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that the Act confers no authority in a court to withhold exclusion of time pursuant to a DPA based on concerns that the government should bring different charges or should charge different defendants. Congress, in providing for courts to approve the exclusion of time pursuant to a DPA, acted against the backdrop of long-settled understandings about the independence of the Executive with regard to charging decisions. Nothing in the statute's terms or structure suggests any intention to subvert those constitutionally rooted principles so as to enable the Judiciary to second-guess the Executive's exercise of discretion over the initiation and dismissal of criminal charges. The district court erred in denying the parties' motion for exclusion of time under because there was no indication that the parties entered into the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) to evade speedy trial limits rather than to enable the company to demonstrate its good conduct and compliance with the law; The court should have confined its inquiry to examining whether the DPA served the purpose of allowing the company to demonstrate its good conduct; The district court's order failed to qualify as effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment, for purposes of the collateral order doctrine; The order amounted to an unwarranted impairment of another branch of government; There was no reason to doubt the district court's ability to render fair judgment going forward, and reassignment was declined.

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