RCRA and the Sixth Amendment: The Supreme Court holds that criminal fines go to the jury

Vol. 44 No. 2

Andrew Mergen is a deputy section chief in the Appellate Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice. The views expressed herein are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any federal agency.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a “cradle to grave” hazardous waste statute notable for its comprehensive and complex regulatory scheme. 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901 et seq. Environmental disputes in the U.S. Supreme Court, however, rarely turn on the intricacies of regulatory schemes but instead such disputes generally focus on big picture concerns. This is true of Southern Union Co. v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2344 (2012). As Deborah Tellier recently explained in the May/June 2012 issue of Trends, at the heart of this case is a constitutional issue—whether the principles of the Sixth Amendment established under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), apply to the imposition of criminal fines.

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