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The Present Use of the Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine in the Criminal Enforcement of Environmental Laws

March 1993

Citation: 23 ELR 10145

Issue: 3

Author: Charles A. De Monaco and Barry M. Hartman

Editors' Summary: The responsible corporate officer doctrine establishes that individuals, including management of a legal entity, may be prosecuted as "persons" within the meaning of several federal environmental statutes, if the facts so warrant. Federal environmental statutes do not require a showing that the person being prosecuted as a corporate officer knowingly violated the applicable law. There is nothing novel about the settled doctrine of law that a responsible corporate officer may be convicted of knowingly violating the law, even if he did not personally carry out the act constituting the violation, as long as that person has a responsible share in the furtherance of the illegal transaction and has actual knowledge of the misconduct.

Mr. Hartman is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. From 1989 until June 1992, he served in various capacities with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including, since 1991, as Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. Mr. De Monaco is the Assistant Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section within the Environment and Natural Resources Division. He has been a local and federal prosecutor since 1975, serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania from 1983 to 1989, and as an Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, from 1975 to 1983. The authors wish to thank and acknowledge the substantial assistance provided by James A. Morgulec, an attorney in the DOJ's Environmental Crimes Section, and Heather Klink, who served as a legal intern with the Environmental Crimes Section in the summer of 1992.

This Article is a description of the DOJ's criminal environmental enforcement activities between 1989 and 1992. It does not necessarily reflect the future policies of the DOJ. This Article does not intend to, does not, and may not be relied on to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal. Nor are any limitations hereby placed on otherwise lawful litigative prerogatives of the DOJ.

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