, Yates v. United States :: 574 U.S. 528 (2015) :: US LAW US Supreme Court Center

Yates v. United States :: 574 U.S. 528 (2015) :: US LAW US Supreme Court Center

    USLaw.Site Opinion Summary and Annotations

    While inspecting a business fishing vessel inside the Gulf of Mexico, a federal agent discovered that the capture contained undersized pink grouper, in violation of conservation policies, and instructed the captain, Yates, to hold the undersized fish segregated from the rest of the trap until the ship returned to port. After the officer departed, Yates advised the team to throw the undersized fish overboard. Yates was convicted of destroying, concealing, and covering up undersized fish to impede a federal investigation under 18 U. S. C. 519, which applies when a person “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a fake access in any report, file, or tangible item with the reason to hinder, impede, or influence” a federal investigation. Yates argued that phase 1519 originated in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, to protect investors, and that its reference to “tangible item” includes gadgets used to shop information, which include pc tough drives. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, keeping that “tangible item” refers to one used to report or maintain information. Section 1519’s position inside Title 18, Chapter 73 and its identify, “Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and financial disaster,” signal that it became no longer supposed to function a go-the-board ban at the destruction of bodily evidence. The words immediately surrounding “tangible object,” “falsifies, or makes a fake entry in any report [or] file,” additionally imply the contextual meaning of that time period. Even if conventional tools of statutory production leave any doubt about the meaning of the term, it might be appropriate to invoke the rule of thumb of lenity.


    Primary Holding
    The meaning of "tangible object" below 18 U.S.C. 519, a crook statute on obstructing a federal research, refers only to an item used to file or preserve data, not to an item used to shop information. This regulation became not intended to cowl all kinds of physical evidence and does now not enlarge to pc difficult drives.
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    NOTE: Where it's far possible, a syllabus (headnote) could be released, as is being achieved in connection with this example, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared through the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., two hundred U. S. 321 .



    Yates v. United States

    certiorari to the usa courtroom of appeals for the 11th circuit

    No. 13 7451. Argued November 5, 2014 Decided February 25, 2015

    While engaging in an offshore inspection of a industrial fishing vessel within the Gulf of Mexico, a federal agent observed that the ship s seize contained undersized pink grouper, in violation of federal conservation rules. The officer informed the deliver s captain, petitioner Yates, to maintain the undersized fish segregated from the rest of the catch until the deliver returned to port. After the officer departed, Yates as a substitute told a team member to throw the undersized fish overboard. For this offense, Yates turned into charged with destroying, concealing, and protecting up undersized fish to obstruct a federal investigation, in violation of 18 U. S. C. 1519. That section affords that someone can be fined or imprisoned for up to twenty years if he knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a fake access in any record, report, or tangible object with the cause to hinder, hinder, or influence a federal research. At trial, Yates moved for a judgment of acquittal on the 1519 price. Pointing to 1519 s origin as a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a regulation designed to guard investors and repair agree with in monetary markets following the disintegrate of Enron Corporation, Yates argued that 1519 s connection with tangible object subsumes objects used to shop statistics, such as pc hard drives, no longer fish. The District Court denied Yates s motion, and a jury found him guilty of violating 1519. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction, concluding that 1519 applies to the destruction or concealment of fish because, as items having bodily shape, fish fall inside the dictionary definition of tangible object.

    Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

    733 F. 3d 1059, reversed and remanded.

    Justice Ginsburg, joined through The Chief Justice, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor, concluded that a tangible item inside 1519 s compass is one used to record or maintain data. Pp. 6 20.

    (a) Although dictionary definitions of the words tangible and object bear attention in determining the that means of tangible object in 1519, they may be not dispositive. Whether a statutory time period is unambiguous is decided [not only] by way of reference to the language itself, [but also by] the particular context wherein that language is used, and the wider context of the statute as a whole. Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U. S. 337 . Identical language may also carry varying content when utilized in exclusive statutes, now and again even in exceptional provisions of the same statute. See, e.g., FAA v. Cooper, 566 U. S. ___, ___. Pp. 7 10.

    (b) Familiar interpretive courses aid the construction of tangible item. Though now not commanding, 1519 s heading Destruction, alteration, or falsification of statistics in Federal investigations and bankruptcy conveys no concept that the phase prohibits spoliation of any and all physical evidence, but far off from facts.

    Section 1519 s role within Title 18, Chapter seventy three, in addition signals that 1519 turned into not supposed to function a pass-the-board ban at the destruction of bodily evidence. Congress located 1519 on the end of Chapter seventy three following immediately after pre-current specialised provisions expressly aimed toward corporate fraud and monetary audits.

    The contemporaneous passage of 1512(c)(1), which prohibits someone from modify[ing], ruin[ing], mutilat[ing], or cover[ing] a document, file, or different object . . . with the rationale to impair the object s integrity or availability for use in an authentic proceeding, is also instructive. The Government argues that 1512(c)(1) s reference to other item consists of any and each bodily object. But if 1519 s reference to tangible item already blanketed all physical items, as the Government additionally contends, then Congress had no cause to enact 1512(c)(1). Section 1519 should no longer be examine to render superfluous a whole provision surpassed in proximity as a part of the identical Act. See Marx v. General Revenue Corp., 568 U. S. ___, ___.

    The words at once surrounding tangible item in 1519 falsifies, or makes a fake entry in any record [or] document also cabin the contextual which means of that time period. Applying the canons noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis, tangible object, because the final in a list of terms that begins any file [or] report, is accurately study to refer, not to any tangible item, but especially to the subset of exact objects used to record or preserve statistics. This moderate interpretation accords with the list of moves 1519 proscribes; the verbs falsif[y] and mak[e] a false access in typically take as grammatical objects facts, documents, or things used to file or preserve statistics, inclusive of logbooks or difficult drives. See Gustafson v. Alloyd Co., 513 U. S. 561 .

    Use of traditional gear of statutory interpretation to examine markers of congressional motive inside the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and 1519 itself accordingly name for rejection of an competitive interpretation of tangible item.

    Furthermore, the that means of document, document, or issue in a provision of the 1962 Model Penal Code (MPC) that has been interpreted to prohibit tampering with any form of bodily evidence isn't a reliable indicator of the which means Congress assigned to file, document, or tangible object in 1519. There are huge variations among the offense described with the aid of the MPC provision and the offense created with the aid of 1519. Pp. 10 18.

    (c) Finally, if recourse to traditional equipment of statutory creation leaves any doubt approximately the meaning of tangible item in 1519, it would be suitable to invoke the rule of thumb of lenity. Pp. 18 19.

    Justice Alito concluded that conventional regulations of statutory production confirm that Yates has the higher argument. Title 18 U. S. C. 1519 s list of nouns, list of verbs, and name, while combined, tip the case in desire of Yates. Applying the canons noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis to the listing of nouns any report, document, or tangible item the time period tangible item should discuss with some thing much like records or files. And at the same time as many of 1519 s verbs alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false access in may want to apply to a ways-flung nouns together with salamanders or sand dunes, the time period makes a false access in makes no sense out of doors of filekeeping. Finally, 1519 s name Destruction, alteration, or falsification of facts in Federal investigations and bankruptcy also points towards filekeeping instead of fish. Pp. 1 4.

    Ginsburg, J., announced the judgment of the Court and added an opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Breyer and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, wherein Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined.

    NOTICE: This opinion is concern to formal revision earlier than ebook within the preliminary print of the US Reports. Readers are requested to inform the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of america, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or different formal errors, just so corrections can be made before the preliminary print is going to press.



    No. 13–7451



    on writ of certiorari to the united states courtroom of appeals for the 11th circuit

    [February 25, 2015]

    Justice Ginsburg introduced the judgment of the Court and brought an opinion, in which The Chief Justice, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor join.

    John Yates, a business fisherman, stuck undersized pink grouper in federal waters inside the Gulf of Mexico. To save you federal government from confirming that he had harvested undersized fish, Yates ordered a crew member to toss the suspect catch into the ocean. For this offense, he became charged with, and convicted of, violating18 U. S. C. §1519, which offers:

    “Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a fake access in any report, report, or tangible object with the motive to obstruct, hinder, or impact the investigation or proper administration of any depend inside the jurisdiction of any department or organisation of the United States or any case filed under title eleven, or on the subject of or contemplation of this type of count number or case, shall be fined underneath this title, imprisoned not more than twenty years, or each.”

    Yates turned into additionally indicted and convicted beneath §2232(a), which provides:

    “Destruction or Removal of Property to Prevent Seizure.—Whoever, before, at some stage in, or after any look for or seizure of assets via any man or woman authorized to make such seek or seizure, knowingly destroys, damages, wastes, disposes of, transfers, or otherwise takes any action, or knowingly tries to spoil, damage, waste, get rid of, switch, or otherwise take any motion, for the cause of preventing or impairing the Government’s lawful authority to take such belongings into its custody or manage or to continue preserving such property beneath its lawful custody and control, shall be fined beneath this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or each.”

    Yates does no longer contest his conviction for violating §2232(a), but he keeps that fish aren't trappedwithin the time period “tangible object,” as that time period is used in §1519.

    Section 1519 changed into enacted as a part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002,116Stat.745, regulation designed to defend buyers and repair believe in financial markets following the collapse of Enron Corporation. A fish is not any doubt an object that is tangible; fish can be visible, stuck, andhandled, and a seize, as this case illustrates, is vulnerable to destruction. But it'd cut §1519 unfastened from itsfinancial-fraud mooring to preserve that it encompasses any and all objects, some thing their length or significance, destroyed with obstructive cause. Mindful that in Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress trained its interest on company and accounting deception and cowl-ups, we finish that a matching creation of §1519 is in order: A tangible item captured with the aid of §1519, we keep, must be one used to document or maintain information.


    On August 23, 2007, the Miss Katie, a commercial fishing boat, was six days into an expedition inside the Gulf of Mexico. Her crew numbered three, consisting of Yates, the captain. Engaged in a routine offshore patrol to look into both leisure and industrial vessels, Officer John Jones of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided to board the Miss Katie to check on the vessel’s compliance with fishing rules. Although the Miss Katie was a long way enough from the Florida coast to be in exclusively federal waters, she was however within Officer Jones’s jurisdiction. Because he had been deputized as a federal agent by using the National Marine Fisheries Service, Officer Jones had authority to put in force federal, in addition to country, fishing laws.

    Upon boarding the Miss Katie, Officer Jones noticed three red grouper that appeared to be undersized placing from a hook at the deck. At the time, federal conservation rules required immediately launch of red grouper less than 20 inches long. 50 CFR §622.37(d)(2)(ii) (powerful April 2, 2007). Violation of those regulations is a civil offense punishable through a quality or fishing license suspension. See 16 U. S. C. §§1857(1)(A), (G), 1858(a), (g).

    Suspecting that other undersized fish might be on board, Officer Jones proceeded to investigate the ship’s trap, setting apart and measuring only fish that regarded to him to be shorter than 20 inches. Officer Jones ultimately decided that seventy two fish fell quick of the 20inch mark. A fellow officer recorded the period of every of the undersized fish on a catch dimension verification shape. With few exceptions, the measured fish have been between 19 and 20 inches; 3 were much less than 19 inches; none have been less than 18.75 inches. After setting apart the fish measuring under 20 inches from the rest of the catch through placing them in wooden crates, Officer Jones directed Yates to depart the fish, accordingly segregated, in the crates until the Miss Katie returned to port. Before departing, Officer Jones issued Yates a quotation for ownership of undersized fish.

    Four days later, after the Miss Katie had docked in Cortez, Florida, Officer Jones measured the fish contained within the timber crates. This time, but, the measured fish, despite the fact that nonetheless less than 20 inches, barely handed the lengths recorded on board. Jones surmised that the fish introduced to port were no longer the same as the ones he had detected in the course of his initial inspection. Under thinking, one of the group contributors admitted that, at Yates’s course, he had thrown overboard the fish Officer Jones had measured at sea, and that he and Yates had replaced the tossed grouper with fish from the rest of the capture.

    For motives now not disclosed inside the report before us, extra than 32 months handed before criminal fees were lodged towards Yates. On May five, 2010, he turned into indicted for destroying belongings to prevent a federal seizure, in violation of §2232(a), and for destroying, concealing, and protecting up undersized fish to obstruct a federal research, in violation of §1519.[1] By the time of the indictment, the minimum felony length for Gulf purple grouper had been lowered from 20 inches to 18 inches. See 50 CFR §622.37(d)(2)(iv) (effective May 18, 2009). No measured fish in Yates’s seize fell under that restrict. The file does no longer monitor what civil penalty, if any, Yates received for his possession of fish undersized below the 2007 law. See16 U. S. C. §1858(a).

    Yates became tried at the crook charges in August 2011. At the cease of the Government’s case in leader, he moved for a judgment of acquittal on the §1519 fee. Pointing to §1519’s identify and its origin as a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Yates argued that the segment sets forth “a files offense” and that its connection with “tangible object[s]” subsumes “laptop tough drives, logbooks, [and] matters of that nature,” not fish. App. ninety one–92. Yates recounted that the Criminal Code consists of “sections that would have been appropriate for the [G]overnment to pursue” if it wanted to prosecute him for tampering with evidence. App. ninety one. Section 2232(a), set out supra, at 1–2, healthy that description. But §1519, Yates insisted, did no longer.

    The Government countered that a “tangible object” within §1519’s compass is “truely some thing aside from a file or report.” App. ninety three. The trial decide expressed misgivings about analyzing “tangible object” as broadly as the Government advised: “Isn’t there a Latin word [about] production of a statute . . . . The gist of it is . . . you take a look at [a] line of phrases, and you interpret the phrases continuously. So in case you’re speaking approximately documents, and statistics, tangible items are tangible items within the nature of a record or a document, in preference to a fish.” Ibid. The first-instance decide though observed controlling Eleventh Circuit precedent. While recognizing that §1519 turned into handed as a part of law targeting corporate fraud, the Court of Appeals had told that “the broad language of §1519 isn't always limited to corporate fraud cases, and ‘Congress is unfastened to bypass legal guidelines with language overlaying areas nicely beyond the precise disaster du jour that to begin with brought on legislative motion.’ ” No. 2:10–cr–sixty six–FtM–29SPC (MD Fla., Aug. 8, 2011), App. 116 (quoting United States v. Hunt, 526 F. 3d 739, 744 (CA11 2008)). Accordingly, the trial court docket read “tangible item” as a time period “impartial” of “report” or “document.” App. 116. For violating §1519 and §2232(a), the courtroom sentenced Yates to imprisonment for 30 days, followed by using supervised launch for three years. App. 118–a hundred and twenty. For existence, he'll bear the stigma of getting a federal prison conviction.

    On attraction, the Eleventh Circuit found the textual content of §1519 “undeniable.” 733 F. 3d 1059, 1064 (2013). Because “tangible item” became “undefined” inside the statute, the Court of Appeals gave the term its “normal or natural that means,” i.e., its dictionary definition, “[h]aving or possessing bodily form.” Ibid. (quoting Black’s Law Dictionary 1592 (9th ed. 2009)).

    We granted certiorari, 572 U. S. ___ (2014), and now reverse the Eleventh Circuit’s judgment.


    The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, all agree, became triggered through the publicity of Enron’s huge accounting fraud and revelations that the organisation’s out of doors auditor, Arthur Andersen LLP, had systematically destroyed probably incriminating files. The Government recognizes that §1519 became intended to restrict, especially, corporate record-shredding to hide proof of financial incorrect-doing. Brief for United States 46. Prior regulation made it an offense to “intimidat[e], threate[n], or corruptly persuad[e] some other character” to shred files. §1512(b) (emphasis introduced). Section 1519 cured a conspicuous omission through enforcing legal responsibility on a person who destroys records himself. See S. Rep. No. 107–146, p. 14 (2002) (describing §1519 as “a new widespread anti shredding provision” and explaining that “sure contemporary provisions make it against the law to persuade some other character to destroy files, however not against the law to definitely break the equal files yourself”). The new segment additionally elevated previous law by way of including within the provision’s reach “any count within the jurisdiction of any branch or organisation of the United States.” Id., at 14–15.

    In the Government’s view, §1519 extends beyond the essential evil motivating its passage. The phrases of §1519, the Government argues, help reading the supply as a wellknown ban at the spoliation of evidence, masking all bodily gadgets that might be relevant to any matter under federal investigation.

    Yates urges a contextual analyzing of §1519, tying “tangible object” to the surrounding phrases, the placement of the supply within the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and related provisions enacted on the equal time, especially §1520 and §1512(c)(1), see infra, at 10, 12–thirteen. Section 1519, he maintains, targets now not all way of proof, however records, files, and tangible gadgets used to keep them, e.g., computers, servers, and different media on which records is saved.

    We believe Yates and reject the Government’s unrestrained reading. “Tangible item” in §1519, we finish, is better read to cover best items you can still use to report or keep records, not all items inside the physical global.


    The ordinary which means of an “item” this is “tangible,” as stated in dictionary definitions, is “a discrete . . . component,” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 1555 (2002), that “own[es] bodily form,” Black’s Law Dictionary 1683 (10th ed. 2014). From this premise, the Government concludes that “tangible object,” as that time period appears in §1519, covers the waterfront, consisting of fish from the sea.

    Whether a statutory term is unambiguous, but, does no longer flip totally on dictionary definitions of its issue phrases. Rather, “[t]he plainness or ambiguity of statutory language is determined [not only] by using connection with the language itself, [but as well by] the unique context in which that language is used, and the wider context of the statute as an entire.” Robinson v. Shell Oil Co.,519 U. S. 337,341 (1997). See also Deal v. United States,508 U. S. 129,132 (1993) (it's far a “fundamental precept of statutory production (and, certainly, of language itself) that the meaning of a word can not be determined in isolation, but ought to be drawn from the context wherein it's far used”). Ordinarily, a phrase’s usage accords with its dictionary definition. In regulation as in lifestyles, but, the identical words, placed in special contexts, sometimes suggest various things.

    We have several instances affirmed that identical language might also deliver various content material when utilized in one of a kind statutes, once in a while even in specific provisions of the equal statute. See, e.g., FAA v. Cooper, 566 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2012), (slip op., at 6–7) (“real damages” has exclusive meanings in exceptional statutes); Wachovia Bank, N. A. v. Schmidt,546 U. S. 303–314 (2006) (“located” has different meanings in specific provisions of the National Bank Act); General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline,540 U. S. 581–597 (2004) (“age” has exceptional meanings in different provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967); United States v. Cleveland Indians Baseball Co.,532 U. S. two hundred,213 (2001) (“wages paid” has one of a kind meanings in exceptional provisions of Title 26 U. S. C.); Robinson, 519 U. S., at 342–344 (“worker” has different meanings in unique sections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964); Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Thompson,478 U. S. 804–808 (1986) (“bobbing up under” has unique meanings in U. S. Const., Art. III, §2, and28 U. S. C. §1331); District of Columbia v. Carter,409 U. S. 418–421 (1973) (“State or Territory” has one-of-a-kind meanings in42 U. S. C. §1982 and §1983); Atlantic Cleaners & Dyers, Inc. v. United States,286 U. S. 427–437 (1932) (“exchange or trade” has different meanings in one-of-a-kind sections of the Sherman Act). As the Court observed in Atlantic Cleaners & Dyers, 286 U. S., at 433:

    “Most words have extraordinary shades of meaning and therefore can be variously construed . . . . Where the issue matter to which the phrases refer is not the same in the numerous locations in which [the words] are used, or the situations are different, or the scope of the legislative strength exercised in a single case is broader than that exercised in some other, the which means well may additionally vary to meet the functions of the law, to be arrived at by a attention of the language in which the ones functions are expressed, and of the occasions below which the language became employed.”[2]

    In brief, despite the fact that dictionary definitions of the words “tangible” and “item” undergo consideration, they're now not dispositive of the meaning of “tangible object” in §1519.

    Supporting a analyzing of “tangible object,” as utilized in §1519, in accord with dictionary definitions, the Government points to the advent of that term in Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16. That Rule requires the prosecution to grant a defendant’s request to look into “tangible gadgets” in the Government’s control that have application for the defense. See Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 16(a)(1)(E).

    Rule 16’s connection with “tangible items” has been interpreted to include any bodily proof. See five W. LaFave, J. Israel, N. King, & O. Kerr, Criminal Procedure §20.three(g), pp. 405–406, and n. a hundred and twenty (3d ed. 2007). Rule 16 is a discovery rule designed to guard defendants via compelling the prosecution to turn over to the protection proof cloth to the fees at trouble. In that context, a comprehensive production of “tangible objects” is becoming. In evaluation, §1519 is a penal provision that refers to “tangible item” now not in relation to a request for records applicable to a selected court intending, however rather when it comes to federal investigations or proceedings of each type, along with those no longer but begun.[three] See Commissioner v. National Carbide Corp., 167 F. 2nd 304, 306 (CA2 1948) (Hand, J.) (“phrases are chameleons, which reflect the coloration in their surroundings”). Just as the context of Rule 16 supports giving “tangible item” a which means as broad as its dictionary definition, the context of §1519 tugs strongly in choose of a narrower analyzing.


    Familiar interpretive publications useful resource our production of the phrases “tangible object” as they seem in §1519.

    We be aware first §1519’s caption: “Destruction, alteration, or falsification of facts in Federal investigations and financial ruin.” That heading conveys no concept that the phase prohibits spoliation of any and all bodily proof, but far off from statistics. Neither does the name of the segment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in which §1519 changed into placed, §802: “Criminal consequences for changing documents.”116Stat.800. Furthermore, §1520, the only different provision surpassed as a part of §802, is titled “Destruction of corporate audit facts” and addresses handiest that precise subset of facts and files. While these headings aren't commanding, they supply cues that Congress did no longer intend “tangible item” in §1519 to brush within its attain bodily items of every kind, which includes things no one would describe as records, documents, or devices closely associated with them. SeeAlmendarez-Torres v. United States,523 U. S. 224,234 (1998) (“[T]he name of a statute and the heading of a section are equipment to be had for the decision of a doubt approximately the which means of a statute.” (internal citation marks not noted)). If Congress certainly supposed to make §1519 an all-encompassing ban at the spoliation of proof, because the dissent believes Congress did, one might have predicted a clearer indication of that motive.

    Section 1519’s role within Chapter seventy three of Title 18 similarly signals that §1519 turned into no longer supposed to function a pass-the-board ban at the destruction of bodily evidence of each kind. Congress located §1519 (and its companion provision §1520) on the give up of the chapter, following immediately after the pre-existing §1516, §1517, and §1518, every of them prohibiting obstructive acts in specific contexts. See §1516 (audits of recipients of federal funds); §1517 (federal examinations of financial establishments); §1518 (criminal investigations of federal health care offenses). See additionally S. Rep. No. 107–146, at 7 (gazing that §1517 and §1518 “practice to obstruction in certain confined styles of cases, inclusive of financial disaster fraud, examinations of monetary institutions, and healthcare fraud”).

    But Congress did now not direct codification of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s other additions to Chapter seventy three adjoining to those specialized provisions. Instead, Congress directed placement of those additions inside or along retained provisions that address obstructive acts concerning extensively to legit lawsuits and criminal trials: Section 806, “Civil Action to shield towards retaliation in fraud instances,” changed into codified as §1514A and inserted between the pre-present §1514, which addresses civil movements to restrain harassment of sufferers and witnesses in crook instances, and §1515, which defines terms utilized in §1512 and §1513. Section 1102, “Tampering with a record or otherwise impeding an reliable proceeding,” turned into codified as §1512(c) and inserted in the pre-current §1512, which addresses tampering with a sufferer, witness, or informant to obstruct any professional intending. Section 1107, “Retaliation towards informants,” become codified as §1513(e) and inserted within the pre-existing §1513, which addresses retaliation against a victim, witness, or informant in any respectable intending. Congress accordingly ranked §1519, now not a few of the large proscriptions, however collectively with specialized provisions expressly aimed at corporate fraud and economic audits. This placement accords with the view that Congress’ concept of §1519’s coverage became significantly extra restricted than the Government’s.[four]

    The contemporaneous passage of §1512(c)(1), which was contained in a segment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act discrete from the section embracing §1519 and §1520, is also instructive. Section 1512(c)(1) offers:

    “(c) Whoever corruptly—

    “(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or different object, or attempts to do so, with the cause to impair the item’s integrity or availability to be used in an official intending

    .     .     .     .     .

    “will be fined below this identify or imprisoned not extra than two decades, or both.”

    The legislative records well-knownshows that §1512(c)(1) become drafted and proposed after §1519. See 148 Cong. Rec. 12518, 13088–13089 (2002). The Government argues, and Yates does not dispute, that §1512(c)(1)’s reference to “other object” includes any and each physical object. But if §1519’s connection with “tangible item” already protected all bodily objects, as the Government and the dissent contend, then Congress had no purpose to enact §1512(c)(1): Virtually any act that could violate §1512(c)(1) no doubt would violate §1519 as nicely, for §1519 applies to “the investigation or proper management of any depend within the jurisdiction of any branch or business enterprise of the United States . . . or in terms of or contemplation of this type of count,” not simply to “an legit proceeding.”[5]

    The Government acknowledges that, below its analyzing, §1519 and §1512(c)(1) “drastically overlap.” Brief for United States 49. Nowhere does the Government give an explanation for what independent function §1512(c)(1) would serve if the Government is proper approximately the sweeping scope of §1519. We face up to a analyzing of §1519 that could render superfluous a whole provision surpassed in proximity as a part of the identical Act.[6] See Marx v. General Revenue Corp., 568 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 14) (“[T]he canon against surplusage is strongest whilst an interpretation might render superfluous any other part of the same statutory scheme.”).

    The words right away surrounding “tangible object” in §1519—“falsifies, or makes a fake entry in any file [or] report”—also cabin the contextual which means of that term. As explained in Gustafson v. Alloyd Co.,513 U. S. 561,575 (1995), we rely at the principle of noscitur a sociis—a word is thought with the aid of the company it keeps—to “keep away from ascribing to 1 word a meaning so extensive that it is inconsistent with its accompanying words, as a result giving unintentional breadth to the Acts of Congress.” (inner quotation marks overlooked). See additionally United States v. Williams,553 U. S. 285,294 (2008) (“a phrase is given greater specific content material via the neighboring phrases with which it's miles related”). In Gustafson, we interpreted the phrase “communication” in §2(10) of the Securities Act of 1933 to refer to a public communique, rather than any conversation, because the word regarded in a listing with other phrases, significantly “word, circular, [and] advertisement,” making it “apparent that the listing refer[red] to files of huge dissemination.” 513 U. S., at 575–576. And we did so despite the fact that the listing started with the word “any.”

    The noscitur a sociis canon operates in a similar manner right here. “Tangible object” is the last in a list of phrases that starts “any document [or] file.” The time period is therefore appropriately study to refer, not to any tangible item, however specially to the subset of tangible objects related to information and files, i.e., items used to report or hold information. See United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual §2J1.2, comment., n. 1 (Nov. 2014) (“ ‘Records, documents, or tangible objects’ includes (A) statistics, documents, or tangible objects which might be saved on, or which can be, magnetic, optical, virtual, other electronic, or different garage mediums or devices; and (B) twine or digital communications.”).

    This moderate interpretation of “tangible item” accords with the listing of actions §1519 proscribes. The section applies to each person who “alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a fake access in any document, file, or tangible item” with the considered necessary obstructive cause. (Emphasis introduced.) The ultimate verbs, “falsif[y]” and “mak[e] a fake access in,” usually take as grammatical objects information, files, or matters used to report or maintain records, which includes logbooks or hard drives. See, e.g., Black’s Law Dictionary 720 (tenth ed. 2014) (defining “falsify” as “[t]o make deceptive; to counterfeit, forge, or misrepresent; esp., to tamper with (a record, record, and many others.)”). It would be unnatural, as an instance, to explain a killer’s act of wiping his fingerprints from a gun as “falsifying” the homicide weapon. But it would no longer be ordinary to refer to “falsifying” records stored on a difficult power as honestly “falsifying” a tough pressure. Furthermore, Congress did no longer include on §1512(c)(1)’s listing of prohibited moves “falsifies” or “makes a fake access in.” See §1512(c)(1) (making it unlawful to “alte[r], destro[y], mutilat[e], or concea[l] a record, document, or other object” with the needful obstructive reason). That contemporaneous omission additionally shows that Congress intended “tangible object” in §1519 to have a narrower scope than “different object” in §1512(c)(1).[7]

    A canon related to noscitur a sociis, ejusdem generis, counsels: “Where widespread phrases comply with particular words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are [usually] construed to embody only gadgets comparable in nature to the ones gadgets enumerated by means of the preceding unique words.” Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Servs. v. Guardianship Estate of Keffeler,537 U. S. 371,384 (2003) (internal quotation marks overlooked). In Begay v. United States,553 U. S. 137–143 (2008), as an instance, we relied on this principle to determine what crimes had been protected by means of the statutory word “any crime . . . that . . . is burglary, arson, or extortion, entails use of explosives, or in any other case involves behavior that gives a critical capacity hazard of bodily harm to another,”18 U. S. C. §924(e)(2)(B)(ii). The enumeration of unique crimes, we explained, indicates that the “otherwise involves” provision covers “best similar crimes, in preference to each crime that ‘provides a serious capability hazard of physical harm to every other.’ ” 553 U. S., at 142. Had Congress intended the latter “all encompassing” that means, we determined, “it is difficult to peer why it would have had to consist of the examples in any respect.” Ibid. See additionally CSX Transp., Inc. v. Alabama Dept. of Revenue,562 U. S. 277, ___ (2011) (slip op., at 16) (“We typically use ejusdem generis to make certain that a trendy phrase will no longer render precise phrases meaningless.”). Just so here. Had Congress intended “tangible object” in §1519 to be interpreted so generically as to capture bodily gadgets as distinct as documents and fish, Congress could have had no motive to refer specially to “document” or “record.” The Government’s unbounded reading of “tangible item” could render those words misleading surplusage.

    Having used traditional tools of statutory interpretation to look at markers of congressional motive in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and §1519 itself, we are persuaded that an competitive interpretation of “tangible item” ought to be rejected. It is tremendously implausible that Congress could have buried a widespread spoliation statute overlaying items of any and every kind in a provision concentrated on fraud in financial record-keeping.

    The Government argues, but, that our inquiry would be incomplete if we didn't don't forget the origins of the word “record, report, or tangible item.” Congress drew that phrase, the Government says, from a 1962 Model Penal Code (MPC) provision, and reform proposals based on that provision. The MPC provision and suggestions prompted by way of it'd have imposed legal responsibility on all of us who “alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, or eliminates a record, document or factor.” See ALI, MPC §241.7(1), p. 175 (1962). Those proscriptions were understood to refer to all bodily evidence. See MPC §241.7, Comment 3, at 179 (1980) (provision “applies to any physical item”). Accordingly, the Government reasons, and the dissent exuberantly has the same opinion, post, at 4–five, Congress have to have intended §1519 to use to the universe of physical evidence.

    The inference is unwarranted. True, the 1962 MPC provision prohibited tampering with any kind of physical evidence. But in contrast to §1519, the MPC provision did not restrict actions that specifically relate to records, documents, and items used to report or keep data. The MPC provision also ranked the offense as a misdemeanor and constrained liability to times wherein the actor “believ[es] that an reputable intending or investigation is pending or approximately to be instituted.” MPC §241.7(1), at a hundred seventy five. Yates might have had scant purpose to count on a legal prosecution, and genuinely not one instituted at a time when even the smallest of the fish he caught got here inside the prison restriction. See supra, at 4; cf. Bond v. United States, 572 U. S. ___, ___ (2014), (slip op., at 14) (rejecting “boundless reading” of a statutory time period given “deeply severe outcomes” that studying might entail). A proposed federal offense in keeping with the MPC provision, superior by a federal fee in 1971, was in addition qualified. See Final Report of the National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws §1323, pp. 116–117 (1971).

    Section 1519 conspicuously lacks the limits constructed into the MPC provision and the federal concept. It describes now not a misdemeanor, but a prison punishable with the aid of up to 20 years in jail. And the phase covers conduct meant to obstruct any federal investigation or intending, together with one now not even at the verge of graduation. Given these enormous differences, the meaning of “file, report, or element” inside the MPC provision and a kindred idea isn't always a dependable indicator of the that means Congress assigned to “report, file, or tangible object” in §1519. The MPC provision, in quick, tells us neither “what Congress wrote [nor] what Congress wanted,” cf. submit, at 15, regarding Yates’s small fish as the concern of a federal criminal prosecution.


    Finally, if our recourse to traditional equipment of statutory construction leaves any doubt approximately the that means of “tangible object,” as that time period is utilized in §1519, we would invoke the guideline that “ambiguity regarding the ambit of crook statutes ought to be resolved in want of lenity.” Cleveland v. United States,531 U. S. 12,25 (2000) (quoting Rewis v. United States,401 U. S. 808,812 (1971)). That interpretative precept is applicable right here, wherein the Government urges a analyzing of §1519 that exposes people to twenty-year jail sentences for tampering with any physical object that may have evidentiary value in any federal research into any offense, no matter whether or not the research is pending or merely contemplated, or whether or not the offense situation to investigation is criminal or civil. See Liparota v. United States,471 U. S. 419,427 (1985) (“Application of the rule of thumb of lenity ensures that crook statutes will offer truthful caution concerning conduct rendered illegal and moves the ideal balance between the legislature, the prosecutor, and the courtroom in defining criminal liability.”). In figuring out the that means of “tangible item” in §1519, “it's miles appropriate, before we pick out the harsher opportunity, to require that Congress have to have spoken in language this is clean and exact.” See Cleveland, 531 U. S., at 25 (quoting United States v. Universal C. I. T. Credit Corp.,344 U. S. 218,222 (1952)). See additionally Jones v. United States,529 U. S. 848–859 (2000) (rule of lenity “reinforces” the belief that arson of an owner-occupied house isn't always problem to federal prosecution under18 U. S. C. §844(i) because this kind of residence does no longer qualify as belongings “used in” commerce or commerce-affecting hobby).[8]

    *  *  *

    For the reasons said, we resist reading §1519 expansively to create a coverall spoliation of proof statute, beneficial as this kind of degree might be. Leaving that critical selection to Congress, we keep that a “tangible object” within §1519’s compass is one used to record or keep facts. The judgment of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is consequently reversed, and the case is remanded for in addition proceedings.

    It is so ordered.

    1 Yates became additionally charged with creating a false statement to federal regulation enforcement officials, in violation of18 U. S. C. §1001(a)(2). That price, on which Yates changed into acquitted, isn't always applicable to our analysis.
    2 The dissent assiduously ignores all this, submit, at eleven–12, in insisting that Congress wrote §1519 to cowl, together with shredded company files, crimson grouper slightly smaller than the prison limit.
    three For the same motive, we do now not suppose the meaning of “tangible gadgets” (or “tangible things,” see Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 26(b)) in other discovery prescriptions noted via the Government ends in the belief that “tangible object” in §1519 encompasses any and all physical evidence existing on land or within the sea.
    4 The dissent contends that not anything may be drawn from the placement of §1519 because, before and after Sarbanes-Oxley, “all of Chapter 73 changed into ordered chronologically.” Post, at 9. The argument would possibly have some pressure if the actual premise had been accurate. In Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress directed insertion of §1514A earlier than §1518, then the remaining section in Chapter seventy three. If, because the dissent argues, Congress followed §1519 to fill out §1512, put up, at 6–7, it'd have made greater sense for Congress to codify the substance of §1519 within §1512 or in a brand new §1512A, rather than setting §1519 among specialized provisions. Notably, in Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress introduced §1512(c)(1), “a vast ban on evidence-spoliation,” cf. publish, at nine, n. 2, to §1512, despite the fact that §1512’s preexisting title and provisions all associated with witness-tampering.
    5 Despite this sweeping “with regards to” language, the dissent remarkably suggests that §1519 does not “usually perform in th[e] context [of] federal court docket[s],” for the ones courts are not “branch[s] or agenc[ies].” Post, at 10. That thought, which, as one would expect, lacks the Government’s endorsement, does not withstand examination. The Senate Committee Report on §1519, on which the dissent somewhere else is based, see submit, at 6, explained that an obstructive act is within §1519’s scope if “accomplished ‘in contemplation’ of or when it comes to a be counted or research.” S. Rep. 107–146, at 15. The Report in addition knowledgeable that §1519 “is . . . meant to dispose of the distinctions, which some courts have read into obstruction statutes, among court docket lawsuits, investigations, regulatory or administrative complaints (whether formal or not), and much less formal government inquiries, irrespective of their name.” Ibid. If any doubt remained about the multiplicity of contexts in which §1519 was designed to use, the Report brought, “[t]he rationale of the provision is simple; humans need to no longer be destroying, changing, or falsifying files to hinder any government function.” Ibid.
    6 Furthermore, if “tangible item” in §1519 is read to consist of any bodily object, §1519 would limit all of the behavior proscribed by means of §2232(a), which imposes a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for destroying or getting rid of “assets” to save you its seizure through the Government. See supra, at 1–2.
    7 The dissent contends that “document, file, or tangible object” in §1519 must be construed in conformity with “file, record, or different object” in §1512(c)(1) due to the fact each provisions cope with “the same primary hassle.” Post, at 11–12. But why have to that be so when Congress prohibited in §1519 extra actions, particular to paper and electronic documents and records, movements it did now not prohibit in §1512(c)(1)? When Congress handed Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002, courts had already interpreted the word “modify, destroy, mutilate, or hide an item” in §1512(b)(2)(B) to use to all kinds of bodily proof. See, e.g., United States v. Applewhaite, 195 F. 3d 679, 688 (CA3 1999) (asserting conviction under §1512(b)(2)(B) for persuading some other individual to color over blood spatter). Congress’ use of a components in §1519 that did no longer music the only used in §1512(b)(2)(B) (and repeated in §1512(c)(1)) indicates that Congress designed §1519 to be interpreted apart from §1512, now not in lockstep with it.
    8 The dissent cites United States v. McRae, 702 F. 3d 806, 834–838 (CA5 2012), United States v. Maury, 695 F. 3d 227, 243–244 (CA3 2012), and United States v. Natal, 2014 U. S. Dist. LEXIS 108852, *24–*26 (Conn., Aug. 7, 2014), as cases that might now not be blanketed by §1519 as we study it. Post, at 18–19. Those instances deliver no reason for difficulty that people who devote “predominant” obstructive acts, identity. at 18, will pass unpunished. The defendant in McRae, a police officer who seized a car containing a corpse and then set it on hearth, changed into additionally convicted for that behavior under18 U. S. C. §844(h) and sentenced to a term of a hundred and twenty months’ imprisonment for that offense. See 702 F. 3d, at 817–818, 839–840. The defendant in Natal, who repainted a van to cover up evidence of a fatal arson, was additionally convicted of three counts of violating18 U. S. C. §three and sentenced to concurrent terms of 174 months’ imprisonment. See Judgment in United States v. Morales, No. three:12–cr–164 (Conn., Jan. 12, 2015). And the defendant in Maury, a company convicted underneath §1519 of concealing evidence that a cement mixer’s protection lock become disabled while a worker’s hands were amputated, became also convicted of numerous other violations, along with 3 counts of violating18 U. S. C. §1505 for concealing proof of different employee safety violations. See 695 F. 3d, at 244–245. See also United States v. Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., 2007 WL 2282514, *70 (NJ, Aug. 2, 2007) (putting forth prices in opposition to the employer). For those violations, the employer changed into fined millions of greenbacks and ordered to perform under the supervision of a courtroom-appointed reveal. See 695 F. 3d, at 246.



    No. 13–7451



    on writ of certiorari to the us courtroom of appeals for the 11th circuit

    [February 25, 2015]

    Justice Alito, concurring in the judgment.

    This case can and should be resolved on slim grounds. And although the query is close, conventional gear of statutory construction affirm that John Yates has the better of the argument. Three features of18 U. S. C. §1519 stand out to me: the statute’s listing of nouns, its listing of verbs, and its identify. Although possibly none of those capabilities by way of itself might tip the case in prefer of Yates, the three blended do so.

    Start with the nouns. Section 1519 refers to “any document, document, or tangible object.” The noscitur a sociis canon instructs that when a statute incorporates a list, each phrase in that list presumptively has a “similar” that means. See, e.g., Gustafson v. Alloyd Co.,513 U. S. 561,576 (1995). A associated canon, ejusdem generis teaches that trendy words following a list of unique words should normally be examine in mild of these unique phrases to mean something “similar.” See, e.g., Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 567 U. S. ___, ___ (2012) (slip op., at 18). Applying these canons to §1519’s listing of nouns, the time period “tangible object” must check with something just like statistics or files. A fish does no longer spring to thoughts—nor does an antelope, a colonial farmhouse, a hydrofoil, or an oil derrick. All are “items” which might be “tangible.” But who wouldn’t boost an eyebrow if a neighbor, while asked to perceive some thing just like a “record” or “document,” stated “crocodile”?

    This analyzing, of path, has its shortcomings. For instance, that is a less than excellent ejusdem generis case because “document” and “record” are themselves quite fashionable. And there may be a danger that “tangible object” can be made superfluous—what is much like a “record” or “file” however but isn't always one? An electronic mail, but, will be such a thing. See United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual §2J1.2 and comment. (Nov. 2003) (reading “records, documents, or tangible objects” to “includ[e]” what's determined on “magnetic, optical, digital, other digital,or different garage mediums or gadgets”). An email, afterall, may not be a “report” if, as became “historically” so, a document turned into a “piece of paper with information on it,” no longer “data saved on a computer, digital garage tool, or another medium.” Black’s Law Dictionary 587–588 (10th ed. 2014). E-mails may also not be “facts” if records are limited to “mins” or other formal writings “designed to memorialize [past] occasions.” Id., at 1465. A difficult force, but, is tangible and can comprise files that are precisely akin to even those narrow definitions. Both “record” and “report” may be read more expansively, however including “tangible object” to §1519 could make certain past query that digital files are covered. To make certain, “tangible item” presumably can capture greater than just e-mails; Congress enacts “catchall[s]” for “acknowledged unknowns.” Republic of Iraq v. Beaty,556 U. S. 848,860 (2009). But in which noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis observe, “recognised unknowns” have to be similar to recognized knowns, i.e., right here, facts and files. This is specifically true due to the fact analyzing “tangible item” too widely may want to render “file” and “record” superfluous.

    Next, consider §1519’s list of verbs: “alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a fake entry in.” Although a lot of those verbs should apply to nouns as a long way-flung as salamanders, satellites, or sand dunes, the final phrase inside the list—“makes a fake access in”—makes no sense out of doors of filekeeping. How does one make a false access in a fish? “Alters” and specially “falsifies” also are intently associated with filekeeping. Not one of the verbs, moreover, cannot be applied to filekeeping—surely no longer inside the manner that “makes a false access in” is usually inconsistent with the aquatic.

    Again, the Government isn't with out a response. One can imagine Congress seeking to write a regulation so extensively that now not every verb traces up with every noun. But failure to “line up” may also advocate that something has long gone awry in one’s interpretation of a text. Where, as here, each of a statute’s verbs applies to a certain category of nouns, there may be a few purpose to suppose that Congress had that class in thoughts. Categories, of path, are frequently underinclusive or overinclusive—§1519, for example, applies to a bomb-threatening letter but no longer a bomb. But this doesn't mean that categories are not useful or that Congress does no longer enact them. See, e.g., Vance v. Bradley,440 U. S. ninety three–109 (1979). Here, focusing at the verbs, the class of nouns seems to be filekeeping. This statement is not dispositive, but neither is it nothing. The Government also contends that §1519’s verbs cut both approaches because it is unnatural to use “falsifies” to tangible objects, and that is in reality real. One does not falsify the outside casing of a tough power, however one should falsify or regulate records physically recorded on that hard drive.

    Finally, my analysis is motivated through §1519’s title: “Destruction, alteration, or falsification of information in Federal investigations and financial disaster.” (Emphasis delivered.) This too factors toward filekeeping, now not fish. Titles may be useful devices to solve “ ‘doubt about the which means of a statute.’ ” Porter v. Nussle,534 U. S. 516–528 (2002) (quoting Almendarez-Torres v. United States,523 U. S. 224,234 (1998)); see also Lawson v. FMR LLC, 571 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2014) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting) (slip op., at 4–6). The identify is specifically valuable here because it reinforces what the textual content’s nouns and verbs independently recommend—that no matter how different statutes is probably study, this specific one does not cowl each noun inside the universe with tangible shape.

    Titles, of path, are also now not dispositive. Here, if the list of nouns did no longer already advise that “tangible object” have to imply some thing similar to information or documents, specifically whilst study in conjunction with §1519’s extraordinary listing of verbs with their consciousness on filekeeping, then the identify would now not be sufficient on its personal. In conjunction with those other two textual features, but, the Government’s argument, although colorable, will become too fantastic to accept. See, e.g., Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Servs. v. Guardianship Estate of Keffeler,537 U. S. 371–385 (2003) (focusing at the “fabricated from [two] canons of production” which turned into “confirmed” via other interpretative proof); cf. Al-Adahi v. Obama, 613 F. 3d 1102, 1105–1106 (CADC 2010) (aggregating proof).



    No. thirteen–7451



    on writ of certiorari to the usa courtroom of appeals for the 11th circuit

    [February 25, 2015]

    Justice Kagan, with whom Justice Scalia, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Thomas be part of, dissenting.

    A criminal regulation,18 U. S. C. §1519, prohibits tampering with “any report, report, or tangible item” in an try and obstruct a federal research. This case raises the question whether the time period “tangible object” way the equal thing in §1519 because it means in everyday language—any object capable of being touched. The answer ought to be easy: Yes. The term “tangible object” is extensive, however clear. Throughout the U. S. Code and plenty of States’ laws, it perpetually covers physical gadgets of a wide variety. And in §1519, context confirms what naked text says: All the phrases surrounding “tangible object” display that Congress intended the time period to have a huge range. That suits with Congress’s glaring cause in enacting §1519: to punish folks who regulate or ruin bodily proof—any physical proof—with the reason of thwarting federal law enforcement.

    The plurality alternatively interprets “tangible item” to cover “best gadgets you can actually use to document or keep statistics.” Ante, at 7. The concurring opinion in addition, if greater vaguely, contends that “tangible item” have to discuss with “something just like information or files”—and shouldn’t include colonial farmhouses, crocodiles, or fish. Ante, at 1 (Alito, J., concurring in judgment). In my view, traditional tools of statutory production all cause a greater conventional result: A “tangible object” is an object that’s tangible. I would observe the statute that Congress enacted and confirm the judgment under.


    While the plurality starts offevolved its analysis with §1519’s heading, see ante, at 10 (“We notice first §1519’s caption”), I would start with §1519’s text. When Congress has not supplied a definition, we generally provide a statutory term its everyday that means. See, e.g., Schindler Elevator Corp. v. United States ex rel. Kirk, 563 U. S. ___, ___ (2011) (slip op., at five). As the plurality ought to renowned, the normal meaning of “tangible item” is “a discrete factor that possesses bodily form.” Ante, at 7 (punctuation and quotation neglected). A fish is, of course, a discrete factor that possesses physical form. See normally Dr. Seuss, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960). So the everyday meaning of the time period “tangible item” in §1519, as noone here disputes, covers fish (which includes too-small purple grouper).

    That interpretation accords with endless uses of the term in statute and rule books as construed with the aid of courts. Dozens of federal laws and rules of technique (and hundreds of country enactments) encompass the term “tangible item” or its first cousin “tangible issue”—a few in affiliation with files, others now not. See, e.g., 7 U. S. C. §8302(2) (regarding “any fabric or tangible item that might harbor a pest or disease”);15 U. S. C. §57b–1(c) (authorizing investigative demands for “documentary fabric or tangible things”);18 U. S. C. §668(a)(1)(D) (defining “museum” as entity that owns “tangible items which might be displayed to the public”);28 U. S. C. §2507(b) (allowing discovery of “applicable records, books, papers, files or tangible things”).[1] To my understanding, no courtroom has ever examine the sort of provision to exclude matters that don’t record or keep information; as a substitute, all courts have adhered to the statutory language’s ordinary (i.e., expansive) meaning. For instance, courts have understood the phrases “tangible objects” and “tangible matters” within the Federal Rules of Criminal and Civil Procedure to cowl the whole thing from guns to capsules to equipment to . . . animals. See, e.g., United States v. Obiukwu, 17 F. 3d 816, 819 (CA6 1994) (according to curiam) (handgun); United States v. Acarino, 270 F. Supp. 526, 527–528 (EDNY 1967) (heroin); In re Newman, 782 F. second 971, 972–975 (CA Fed. 1986) (electricity era machine); Martin v. Reynolds Metals Corp., 297 F. 2nd forty nine, fifty six–57 (CA9 1961) (cattle). No wonder, then, that—until these days—courts have uniformly carried out the time period “tangible item” in §1519 inside the equal manner. See, e.g., United States v. McRae, 702 F. 3d 806, 834–838 (CA5 2012) (corpse); United States v. Maury, 695 F. 3d 227, 243–244 (CA3 2012) (cement mixer).

    That is not always the cease of the problem; I consider the plurality (virtually, who does now not?) that context subjects in decoding statutes. We do not “construe the which means of statutory phrases in a vacuum.” Tyler v. Cain,533 U. S. 656,662 (2001). Rather, we interpret unique words “in their context and if you want to their region within the standard statutory scheme.” Davis v. Michigan Dept. of Treasury,489 U. S. 803,809 (1989). And occasionally which means, as the plurality says, that the dictionary definition of a disputed time period can not manage. See, e.g., Bloate v. United States, 559 U. S. 196, n. 9 (2010). But this is not such an occasion, for right here the text and its context point the equal way. Stepping lower back from the phrases “tangible item” offers only similarly evidence that Congress said what it meant and intended what it said.

    Begin with the manner the encircling words in §1519 give a boost to the breadth of the term at issue. Section 1519 refers to “any” tangible item, as a consequence indicating (consistent with that phrase’s simple meaning) a tangible object “of some thing type.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 97 (2002). This Court has again and again recognized that “any” has “an expansive meaning,” bringing inside a statute’s reach all varieties of the item (here, “tangible object”) to which the law refers. Department of Housing and Urban Development v. Rucker,535 U. S. 125,131 (2002); see, e.g., Republic of Iraq v. Beaty,556 U. S. 848,856 (2009); Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons,552 U. S. 214–220 (2008). And the adjacent laundry list of verbs in §1519 (“alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry”) further shows that Congress wrote a statute with a wide scope. Those phrases are presupposed to make sure—simply as “tangible item” is meant to—that §1519 covers the complete international of proof-tampering, in all its prodigious range. See United States v. Rodgers,466 U. S. 475,480 (1984) (rejecting a “slender, technical definition” of a statutory term whilst it “clashes strongly” with “sweeping” language within the equal sentence).

    Still extra, “tangible object” appears as part of a three-noun phrase (such as additionally “records” and “documents”) commonplace to evidence-tampering laws and usually understood to embrace things of all kinds. The Model Penal Code’s evidence-tampering section, drafted extra than 50 years in the past, in addition prohibits a person from “modify[ing], smash[ing], disguise[ing] or remov[ing] any record, document or element” with a purpose to thwart an reliable research or intending. ALI, Model Penal Code §241.7(1),p. 175 (1962) (emphasis introduced). The Code’s statement emphasizes that the offense defined in that provision is “not restrained to conduct that [alters] a written tool.” Id., §241.7, Comment 3, at 179. Rather, the language extends to “any bodily object.” Ibid. Consistent with that statement—and, of course, with everyday that means—courts inside the extra than 15 States that have laws based at the Model Code’s tampering provision observe them to all tangible objects, inclusive of tablets, weapons, vehicles and . . . yes, animals. See, e.g., State v. Majors, 318 S. W. 3d 850, 859–861 (Tenn. 2010) (cocaine); Puckett v. State, 328 Ark. 355, 357–360, 944 S. W. 2d 111, 113–114 (1997) (gun); State v. Bruno, 236 Conn. 514, 519–520, 673 A. second 1117, 1122–1123 (1996) (bicycle, skeleton, blood stains); State v. Crites, 2007 Mont. Dist. LEXIS 615, *five–*7 (Dec. 21, 2007) (deer antlers). Not a one has constrained the word’s scope to items that report or hold information.

    The words “file, report, or tangible object” in §1519 additionally tune language in18 U. S. C. §1512, the federal witness-tampering regulation protecting (as even the plurality accepts, see ante, at 12) physical proof in all its forms. Section 1512, both in its authentic version (preceding §1519) and today, again and again uses the word “record, file, or different item”—maximum significantly, in a provision prohibiting using force or hazard to set off another individual to withhold any of those materials from an professional intending. §4(a) of the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982,96Stat.1249, as amended,18 U. S. C. §1512(b)(2). That language, which itself probable derived from the Model Penal Code, encompasses no much less the bloody knife than the incriminating letter, as all courts have for many years agreed. See, e.g., United States v. Kellington, 217 F. 3d 1084, 1088 (CA9 2000) (boat); United States v. Applewhaite, 195 F. 3d 679, 688 (CA3 1999) (stone wall). And commonly “most effective the most compelling proof” will convince this Court that Congress meant “almost identical language” in provisions coping with related topics to endure special meanings. Communication Workers v. Beck,487 U. S. 735,754 (1988); see A. Scalia & B. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 252 (2012). Context therefore again confirms what textual content indicates.

    And legislative records, for folks that care about it, places extra icing on a cake already frosted. Section 1519, because the plurality notes, see ante, at 2, 6, turned into enacted after the Enron Corporation’s disintegrate, as a part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002,116Stat.745. But the availability commenced its lifestyles in a separate invoice, and the drafters emphasised that Enron become “most effective a case observe exposing the shortcomings in our current legal guidelines” relating to both “company and criminal” fraud. S. Rep. No. 107–146, pp. 2, eleven (2002). The primary “loophole[ ]” Congress diagnosed, see identity., at 14, arose from limits inside the a part of §1512 simply described: That provision, as uniformly construed, prohibited a person from inducing every other to damage “document[s], file[s], or different item[s]”—of every type—but now not from doing so himself. §1512(b)(2); see supra, at 5. Congress (as even the plurality agrees, see ante, at 6) enacted §1519 to close that yawning hole. But §1519 may want to fully acquire that aim most effective if it blanketed all the information, documents, and objects §1512 did, in addition to all the manner of tampering with them. And so §1519 changed into written to do exactly that—“to use broadly to any acts to ruin or fabricate physical proof,” so long as achieved with the needful cause. S. Rep. No. 107–146, at 14. “When a person destroys evidence,” the drafters defined, “overly technical felony differences should neither prevent nor prevent prosecution.” Id., at 7. Ah nicely: Congress, meet today’s Court, which here invents simply this type of difference with simply such an impact. See United States v. Philadelphia Nat. Bank,374 U. S. 321,343 (1963) (“[C]reat[ing] a massive loophole in a statute designed to shut a loophole” is “illogical and disrespectful of . . . congressional cause”).

    As Congress identified in the use of a wide term, giving immunity to folks who ruin non-documentary proof has no practical foundation in penal policy. A person who hides a murder sufferer’s body isn't any much less culpable than person who burns the victim’s diary. A fisherman, like John Yates, who dumps undersized fish to keep away from a quality is no much less blameworthy than one who shreds his vessel’s catch logfor the identical motive. Congress accordingly handled both offenders within the equal manner. It understood, in enacting §1519, that destroying evidence is destroying evidence, whether or no longer that evidence takes documentary shape.



    The plurality searches a long way and extensive for anything—anything—to guide its interpretation of §1519. But its fishing day trip comes up empty.

    The plurality’s analysis starts offevolved with §1519’s name: “Destruction, alteration, or falsification of statistics in Federal investigations and financial disaster.” See ante, at 10; see also ante, at 3–4 (opinion of Alito, J.). That’s already a signal some thing is amiss. I realize of no other case wherein we've got began our interpretation of a statute with the title, or relied on a identify to override the regulation’s clear terms. Instead, we have observed “the wise rule that the title of a statute and the heading of a segment can not limit the obvious which means of the text.” Trainmen v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co.,331 U. S. 519–529 (1947).

    The cause for that “smart rule” is simple to peer: A identify is, almost always, an abridgment. Attempting to say every term in a statute “would often be ungainly in addition to useless”; as a result, “subjects inside the textual content . . . are regularly unreflected within the headings.” Id., at 528. Just closing 12 months, this Court found that titles in a close-by section of Sarbanes-Oxley function “however a short-hand reference to the overall difficulty depend” of the availability at trouble, “no longer meant to take the place of the unique provisions of the textual content.” Lawson v. FMR LLC, 571 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (slip op., at 16) (quoting Trainmen, 331 U. S., at 528). The “under-inclusiveness” of the headings, we stated, turned into “apparent.” Lawson, 571 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at16). So too for §1519’s identify, which refers to “destruction, alteration, or falsification” but now not to mutilation, concealment, or covering up, and likewise mentions “statistics” but no longer other files or items. Presumably, the plurality might no longer refuse to apply §1519 when a person only conceals evidence rather than destroying, changing, or falsifying it; as an alternative, the plurality would say that a name is just a title, which can't “undo or limit” extra unique statutory textual content. Ibid. (quoting Trainmen, 331 U. S., at 529). The same holds proper when the evidence in query isn't a “file” but something else whose destruction, alteration, and many others., is meant to impede justice.

    The plurality next attempts to divine which means from §1519’s “function inside Chapter seventy three of Title 18.” Ante, at 10. But that pass is but odder than the closing. As a long way as I can inform, this Court has in no way once advised that the section variety assigned to a regulation bears upon its that means. Cf. Scalia, supra, at xi–xvi (list more than 50 interpretive concepts and canons with out citing the plurality’s new number-in-the-Code principle). And even on its own terms, the plurality’s argument is difficult to fathom. The plurality claims that if §1519 applied to items commonly, Congress would no longer have located it “after the pre-present §1516, §1517, and §1518” due to the fact those are “specialized provisions.” Ante, at eleven. But seek me if I can find a better location for a broad ban on evidence-tampering. The plural-ity seems to agree that the law properly goes in Chapter 73—the crook code’s chapter on “obstruction of justice.” But the availability does now not logically healthy into any of that chapter’s pre-current sections. And with the primary 18 numbers of the bankruptcy already taken (beginning with §1501 and persevering with via §1518), the regulation naturally took the 19th place. That is widespread running method. Prior to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, all of Chapter 73 turned into ordered chronologically: Section 1518 become later enacted than §1517, which became later enacted than §1516, which changed into . . . nicely, you get the concept. And after Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress has endured in the same vein. Section 1519 is hence right where you will count on it (as is the contemporaneously exceeded §1520)—among §1518 (delivered in 1996) and §1521 (brought in 2008).[2]

    The plurality’s 1/3 argument, counting on the surplusage canon, as a minimum invokes a recognised device of statutory construction—but it too involves nothing. Says the plurality: If read obviously, §1519 “would render superfluous” §1512(c)(1), which Congress handed “as part of the equal act.” Ante, at thirteen. But that is not so: Although the two provisions substantially overlap, every applies to conduct the alternative does not. The key distinction between the 2 is that §1519 protects the integrity of “rely[s] in the jurisdiction of any [federal] branch or employer” while §1512(c)(1) safeguards “reliable proceeding[s]” as definedin §1515(a)(1)(A). Section 1519’s language frequently applies greater broadly than §1512(c)(1)’s, as the plurality notes. For instance, an FBI investigation counts as a remember within a federal department’s jurisdiction, however falls outdoor the statutory definition of “official proceeding” as construed by courts. See, e.g., United States v. Gabriel, a hundred twenty five F. 3d 89, one zero five, n. 13 (CA2 1997). But conversely, §1512(c)(1) on occasion reaches extra extensively than §1519. For example, due to the fact an “legit proceeding” includes any “proceeding earlier than a judge or court of the United States,” §1512(c)(1) prohibits tampering with proof in federal litigation among private parties. See §1515(a)(1)(A); United States v. Burge, 711 F. 3d 803, 808–810 (CA7 2013); United States v. Reich, 479 F. 3d 179, 185–187 (CA2 2007) (Sotomayor, J.). By contrast, §1519 wouldn’t often function in that context because a federal courtroom isn’t a “branch or organization.” See Hubbard v. United States,514 U. S. 695,715 (1995).[three] So the surplusage canon doesn’t come into play.[4] Overlap—even great overlap—abounds in the crook regulation. See Loughrin v. United States, 573 U. S. ___, ___ – ___, n. 4 (2014) (slip op., at 6–7, n. 4). This Court has by no means idea that of such everyday stuff surplusage is made. See ibid.; Connecticut Nat. Bank v. Germain,503 U. S. 249,253 (1992).

    And the legislative records to which the plurality appeals, see ante, at 6, handiest cuts in opposition to it due to the fact the ones substances show that lawmakers knew that §1519 and §1512(c)(1) share a lot common floor. Minority Leader Lott added the change that blanketed §1512(c)(1) (in conjunction with different criminal and corporate fraud provisions) late in the legislative method, explaining that he did so at the specific request of the President. See 148 Cong. Rec. 12509, 12512 (2002) (remarks of Sen. Lott). Not best Lott but numerous different Senators mentioned the overlap between the President’s package and provisions already inside the invoice, maximum substantially §1519. See identity., at 12512 (comments of Sen. Lott); id., at 12513 (feedback of Sen. Biden); identity., at 12517 (feedback of Sens. Hatch and Gramm). The presence of each §1519 and §1512(c)(1) within the very last Act may additionally have meditated belt-and-suspenders caution: If §1519 contained some flaw, §1512(c)(1) would function a backstop. Or the addition of §1512(c)(1) may have derived totally from legislators’ want “to satisfy audiences apart from courts”—this is, the President and his Justice Department. Gluck & Bressman, Statutory Interpretation from the Inside, sixty five Stan. L. Rev. 901, 935 (2013) (emphasis deleted). Whichever the case, Congress’s cognizance of overlap among the two provisions eliminates any attainable motive to solid apart §1519’s regular which means in provider of preventing some statutory repetition.

    Indeed, the inclusion of §1512(c)(1) in Sarbanes-Oxley creates a far worse trouble for the plurality’s construction of §1519 than for mine. Section 1512(c)(1) criminalizes the destruction of any “file, record, or different object”; §1519 of any “record, file, or tangible object.” On the plurality’s view, one “object” is actually an object, whereas the opposite is only an item that preserves or stores records. But “[t]he regular rule of statutory production assumes that same words used in exceptional elements of the equal act,” handed on the identical time, “are meant to have the same meaning.” Sorenson v. Secretary of Treasury,475 U. S. 851,860 (1986) (inner citation marks not noted). And that is in particular genuine whilst the one of a kind provisions pertain to the same issue. See supra, at 5–6. The plurality doesn’t—in reality, can’t—provide an explanation for why it rather translates the equal words used in two provisions of the identical Act addressing the identical primary hassle to intend essentially different things.

    Getting nowhere with surplusage, the plurality switches canons, hoping that noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis will store it. See ante, at thirteen–16; see also ante, at 1–2 (opinion of Alito, J.). The first of those related canons advises that phrases grouped in a list receive comparable meanings. The second counsels that a wellknown term following specific words embraces handiest matters of a similar kind. According to the plurality, those Latin maxims trade the English that means of “tangible object” to only matters, like statistics and files, “used to file or maintain statistics.” Ante, at 14.[five] But understood as this Court usually has, the canons haven't any such transformative effect on the workaday language Congress chose.

    As an preliminary rely, this Court uses noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis to clear up ambiguity, no longer create it. Those standards are “useful rule[s] of creation where phrases are of difficult to understand or doubtful meaning.” Russell Motor Car Co. v. United States,261 U. S. 514,520 (1923). But whilst words have a clear definition, and all different contextual clues aid that which means, the canons cannot properly defeat Congress’s choice to draft wide law. See, e.g., Ali, 552 U. S., at 227 (rejecting the invocation of those canons as an “attempt to create ambiguity wherein the statute’s textual content and structure suggest none”).

    Anyway, assigning “tangible object” its normal meaning comports with noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis when applied, as they should be, with interest to §1519’s challenge and reason. Those canons require identifying a common trait that hyperlinks all of the phrases in a statutory phrase. See, e.g., Graham County Soil and Water Conservation Dist. v. United States ex rel. Wilson,559 U. S. 280,289, n.7 (2010); Ali, 552 U. S., at 224–226. In responding to that demand, the plurality characterizes statistics and documents as matters that preserve facts—and so they may be. But simply as an awful lot, they're matters that provide data, and hence potentially serve as evidence applicable to matters under review. And in a statute touching on obstruction of federal investigations, that evidentiary feature comes to the fore. The destruction of data and files prevents regulation enforcement marketers from collecting statistics applicable to reputable inquiries. And so too does the destruction of actual gadgets—of something type. Whether the object is a fisherman’s ledger or an undersized fish, throwing it overboard has the identical effect on the administration of justice. See supra, at 7. For functions of §1519, information, documents, and (all) tangible items are consequently alike.

    Indeed, even the plurality can’t absolutely credit its noscitur/ejusdem argument. The same reasoning would follow to each regulation putting the word “item” (or “issue”) after “file” and “record.” But as mentioned earlier, such statutes are commonplace: The phrase appears (amongst different locations) in lots of nation legal guidelines based totally at the Model Penal Code, as well as in a couple of provisions of §1512. See supra, at four–5. The plurality accepts that during the ones laws “object” means object; its argument approximately superfluity definitely relies upon on giving §1512(c)(1) that broader studying. See ante, at 13, 16. What, then, is the difference here? The plurality proposes that some of those statutes describe much less critical offenses than §1519. See ante, at 17. How and why that difference impacts software of the noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis canons is left difficult to understand: Count it asone extra of the plurality’s never-before-propounded,now not-with ease-explained interpretive theories. See supra, at 7, 8–nine, 11–12. But in any event, that rationale can not guide the plurality’s willingness to give “item” its natural which means in §1512, which (like §1519) sets out felonies with consequences of up to 20 years. See §§1512(a)(3)(C), (b), (c). The canons, in the plurality’s interpretive global, reputedly switch on and rancid every time convenient.

    And the plurality’s invocation of §1519’s verbs does not anything to buttress its canon-based argument. See ante, at 14–15; ante, at 2–three (opinion of Alito, J.). The plurality observes that §1519 prohibits “falsif[ying]” or “mak[ing] a false entry in” a tangible item, and no person can do those things to, say, a murder weapon (or a fish). Ante, at 14. But of path a person can regulate, wreck, mutilate, disguise, or cover up this type of tangible item, and §1519 prohibits those movements too. The Court has by no means earlier than counseled that each one the verbs in a statute need to in shape up with all of the nouns. See Robers v. United States, 572 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (slip op., at four) (“[T]he regulation does not require legislators to jot down extra language particularly exempting, phrase by word, programs in admire to which a part of a phrase is not needed”). And for precise purpose. It is exactly when Congress units out to draft a statute extensively—to include every conceivable variant on a topic—that such mismatches will get up. To reply with the aid of narrowing the regulation, as the plurality does, is for this reason to flout both what Congress wrote and what Congress desired.

    Finally, when all else fails, the plurality invokes the rule of thumb of lenity. See ante, at 18. But even in its maximum robust shape, that rule handiest kicks in while, “after all legitimate tools of interpretation were exhausted, ‘a reasonable doubt persists’ regarding whether Congress has made the defendant’s conduct a federal crime.” Abramski v. United States, 573 U. S. ___, ___ (2014) (Scalia, J., dissenting) (slip op., at 12) (quoting Moskal v. United States,498 U. S. 103,108 (1990)). No such doubt lingers here. The plural-ity factors to the breadth of §1519, see ante, at 18, as even though breadth had been equivalent to ambiguity. It isn't. Section 1519 is very large. It is also very clean. Every traditional tool of statutory interpretation factors within the identical path, toward “item” that means item. Lenity gives no right safe haven from that trustworthy (even though capacious) creation.[6]


    The concurring opinion is a shorter, vaguer version of the plurality’s. It is based often at the noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis canons, attempts to strengthen them with §1519’s “listing of verbs,” and concludes with the segment’s name. See supra, at 7–eight, 12–thirteen, 14–15 (addressing each of these arguments). (Notably, even the concurrence places no stock in the plurality’s phase-range and superfluity claims.) From the ones familiar substances, the concurrence arrives at the subsequent definition: “ ‘tangible object’ ought to imply some thing just like data or files.” Ante, at four (opinion of Alito, J.). In amplifying that purported steering, the concurrence suggests making use of the term “tangible object” consistent with what “a neighbor, when asked to identify some thing similar to report or record,” would possibly solution. Ante, at 1. “[W]ho wouldn’t enhance an eyebrow,” the concurrence wonders, if the neighbor said “crocodile”? Ante, at 1–2. Courts once in a while say, while explaining the Latin maxims, that the “words of a statute must be interpreted consistent with their buddies.” See, e.g., United States v. Locke, 529 U. S. 89,a hundred and five (2000). The concurrence takes that expression actually.

    But §1519’s that means need to no longer hinge on the odd game of Mad Libs the concurrence proposes. No one studying §1519 wishes to fill in a clean after the phrases “facts” and “files.” That is because Congress, quite helpfully, already did so—including the term “tangible item.” The issue in this situation is what that time period way. So if the concurrence needs to invite its neighbor a question, I’d recommend a greater pertinent one: Do you watched a fish (or, if the concurrence prefers, a crocodile) is a “tangible item”? As to that question, “who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow” if the neighbor stated “no”?

    In insisting on its unique question, the concurrence neglects the right feature of catchall phrases like “or tangible object.” The motive Congress makes use of such phrases is precisely to attain matters that, in the concurrence’s phrases, “do[ ] now not spring to mind”—to my thoughts, to my neighbor’s, or (maximum essential) to Congress’s. Ante, at 1 (opinion of Alito, J.). As this Court these days explained: “[T]he entire price of a generally phrased residual [term] is that it serves as a catchall for subjects not especially contemplated—acknowledged unknowns.” Beaty, 556 U. S., at 860. Congress realizes that during a recreation of free affiliation with “report” and “report,” it will never think about all of the different matters—consisting of crocodiles and fish—whose destruction or alteration can (much less often but simply as efficiently) thwart law enforcement. Cf. United States v. Stubbs, 11 F. 3d 632, 637–638 (CA6 1993) (dead crocodiles used as proof to assist smuggling conviction). And so Congress provides the overall time period “or tangible object”—again, precisely due to the fact such things “do[ ] not spring to thoughts.”[7]

    The concurrence indicates that the time period “tangible item” serves not as a catchall for bodily proof however to “ensure beyond query” that e-mails and different electronic files fall inside §1519’s compass. Ante, at 2. But that declare is eyebrow-elevating in its personal right. Would a Congress wishing to make certain that §1519 applies toe-mails upload the word “tangible object” (as opposed, say, to “electronic communications”)? Would a judge or jury member predictably find that “tangible object” encompasses something as digital as email (in comparison, say, with some thing as real as a fish)? If not (and the solution is not), then that term cannot characteristic as a failsafe fore-mails.

    The concurrence acknowledges that no one in all its arguments can convey the day; instead, it takes the Latin canons plus §1519’s verbs plus §1519’s name to “tip the case” for Yates. Ante, at 1. But the sum general of three improper arguments is . . . 3 mistaken arguments. They do not get better within the combining. And so the concurrence finally ends up proper in which the plurality does, except that the concurrence, eschewing the guideline of lenity, has not anything to fallback on.


    If not one of the traditional tools of statutory interpretation can produce these days’s end result, then what accounts for it? The plurality offers a clue whilst it emphasizes the disproportionate consequences §1519 imposes if the regulation is read broadly. See ante, at 17–18. Section 1519, the plurality objects, would then “reveal[ ] people to 20-12 months jail sentences for tampering with any physical object that may have evidentiary fee in any federal investigation into any offense.” Ante, at 18. That brings to the floor the real issue: overcriminalization and excessive punishment in the U. S. Code.

    Now as to this statute, I think the plurality extremely—although only fairly—exaggerates the problem. The plurality omits from its description of §1519 the requirement that someone act “knowingly” and with “the motive to hinder, impede, or impact” federal regulation enforcement. And in highlighting §1519’s maximum penalty, the plurality glosses over the absence of any prescribed minimal. (Let’s no longer forget that Yates’s sentence become not 20 years, however 30 days.) Congress probably enacts laws with excessive maximums and no minimums when it thinks the prohibited behavior might also run the gamut from foremost to minor. Thatis assuredly authentic of acts obstructing justice. Compare this case with the subsequent, all of which nicely come inside, but now fall out of doors, §1519: McRae, 702 F. 3d, at 834–838 (burning human frame to thwart murder investigation); Maury, 695 F. 3d, at 243–244 (changing cement mixer to impede inquiry into amputation of employee’s arms); United States v. Natal, 2014 U. S. Dist. LEXIS 108852, *24–*26 (D Conn., Aug. 7, 2014) (repainting van to cowl up evidence of deadly arson). Most district judges, as Congress is aware of, will recognize differences among such cases and prosecutions like this one, and will try to make the punishment healthy the crime. Still and all, I generally tend to assume, for the reasons the plurality gives, that §1519 is a awful law—too wide and undifferentiated, with too-excessive most consequences, which provide prosecutors too much leverage and sentencers too much discretion. And I’d move in addition: In those ways, §1519 is unluckily no longer an outlier, but an brand of a deeper pathology inside the federal criminal code.

    But regardless of the information or folly of §1519, this Court does not get to rewrite the law. “Resolution of the professionals and cons of whether a statute ought to sweep widely or narrowly is for Congress.” Rodgers, 466 U. S., at 484. If judges disagree with Congress’s preference, we're perfectly entitled to mention so—in lectures, in law assessment articles, and even in dicta. But we aren't entitled to update the statute Congress enacted with an opportunity of our owndesign.

    I respectfully dissent.

    1 From Alabama and Alaska via Wisconsin and Wyoming (and believe me—in all that come between), States in addition use the phrases “tangible objects” and “tangible things” in statutes and guidelines of all sorts. See, e.g., Ala. Code §34–17–1(3) (2010) (defining “landscape structure” to encompass the layout of certain “tangible objects and functions”); Alaska Rule Civ. Proc. 34(a)(1) (2014) (allowing litigants to “look into, copy, take a look at, or sample any tangible things” that represent or contain discoverable cloth); Wis. Stat. §804.09(1) (2014) (requiring the manufacturing of “distinct tangible matters” in civil complaints); Wyo. Rule Crim. Proc. 41(h) (2014) (defining “assets” for functions of a seek-and-seizure statute to encompass “files, books, papers and some other tangible objects”).
    2 The lonesome exception to Chapter 73’s chronological order is §1514A, delivered in Sarbanes-Oxley to create a civil action to defend whistleblowers. Congress decided to region that provision proper after the best other segment in Chapter 73 to authorize a civil movement (that one to guard sufferers and witnesses). The plurality, seizing at the §1514 instance, says it likewise “might have made greater feel for Congress to codify the substance of §1519 within §1512 or in a brand new §1512A.” Ante, at 12, n. 4. But §1512 is titled “Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant,” and its provisions nearly all shield witnesses from intimidation and harassment. It makes perfect feel that Congress wanted a extensive ban on evidence-spoliation to stand on its very own in preference to as a part of—or an appendage to—a witness-tampering provision.
    3 The plurality’s objection to this announcement is tough to recognize. It cannot take issue with Hubbard’s conserving that “a federal court docket is neither a ‘department’ nor an ‘company’ ” in a statute referring, just as §1519 does, to “any matter in the jurisdiction of any branch or corporation of the USA.” 514 U. S., at 698, 715. So the plurality indicates that the phrase “in terms of . . . one of these count number” in §1519 one way or the other modifications Hubbard’s result. See ante, at 12–thirteen, and n. 5. But that word nevertheless needs that proof-tampering relate to a “be counted within the jurisdiction of any department or business enterprise”—with the exception of courts, as Hubbard commands. That is why the federal authorities, as some distance asI can tell, has never once brought a prosecution below §1519 forevidence-tampering in litigation between non-public events. It as a substitute uses §1512(c)(1) for that cause.
    four Section 1512(c)(1) also applies greater broadly than §1519 in proceedings referring to insurance law. The term “official proceeding” in §1512(c)(1) is described to encompass “intending[s] involving the commercial enterprise of coverage whose activities affect interstate trade earlier than any insurance regulatory respectable or organization.” §1515(a)(1)(D). But §1519 wouldn’t commonly apply in that context due to the fact country, no longer federal, corporations cope with most insurance law.
    5 The plurality seeks guide for this argument within the Sentencing Commission’s construction of the word “records, files, or tangible gadgets,” ante, at 14, however to no avail. The plurality cites a observe inside the Commission’s Manual clarifying that this phrase, as used within the Sentencing Guidelines, “consists of” numerous electronic information, communications, and storage devices. United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual §2J1.2, remark., n. 1 (Nov. 2014) (USSG). But “includes” (following its ordinary definition) “is not exhaustive,” because the Commission’s remark makes explicit. USSG §1B1.1, remark., n. 2. Otherwise, the Commission’s production wouldn’t embody paper files. All the notice does is to make undeniable that “facts, documents, or tangible gadgets” embraces stuff referring to the virtual (as well as the cloth) international.
    6 As a part of its lenity argument, the plurality asserts that Yates did now not have “honest warning” that his conduct amounted to a felony. Ante, at 18; see ante, at 17 (mentioning that “Yates would have had scant reason to anticipate a legal prosecution” while throwing fish overboard). But even below the plurality’s view, the dumping of fish is potentially a federal legal—just beneath §1512(c)(1), in place of §1519. See ante, at 12–thirteen. In any event, the plurality itself recognizes that the normal meaning of §1519 covers Yates’s conduct, see ante, at 7: That provision, no less than §1512(c)(1), publicizes its extensive scope within the clearest possible terms. And when an everyday citizen seeks notice of a statute’s scope, he's much more likely to cognizance on the apparent textual content than (as the plurality would have it) at the section number, the superfluity precept, and the noscitur and ejusdem canons.
    7 The concurrence contends that once the noscitur and ejusdem canons are in play, “ ‘known unknowns’ ought to be similar to acknowledged knowns, i.e., here, records and documents.” Ante, at 2. But as stated above, records and documents are much like crocodiles and fish as a long way as §1519 is worried: All are probably useful as proof in an research. See supra, at thirteen. The concurrence in no way explains why that similarity isn’t the relevant one in a statute aimed at proof-tampering.
    Oral Argument - November 05, 2014
    Opinion Announcement - February 25, 2015
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