Organizations File Briefs in Support of Stolt-Nielsen Case

Monday, September 25, 2006
Nine separate organizations, including a foreign sovereign government, leading trade associations and other groups have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court of the United States urging the Court agree to hear the Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. United States case. Stolt-Nielsen S.A. expressed its appreciation that these organizations urged review of a decision by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which held that federal courts lack the authority to enforce prosecutors' promises pre-indictment, which is in conflict with the decisions of the Seventh Circuit. "In breaching its promises with Stolt-Nielsen, the Department of Justice overstepped any legitimate prosecutorial boundary," James B. Hurlock, an outside director and Chair of the SNSA Board of Directors' Legal Affairs Committee said. "These amicus briefs make clear the need for the federal courts to be vigilant in protecting companies and their executives from the Justice Department simply ignoring its own signed agreements." Stolt-Nielsen was charged in a one-count indictment earlier in September. That indictment breaches the Antitrust Division's own written Amnesty Agreement made in January 2003, which promised Stolt-Nielsen that it would not "bring any criminal prosecution" against the company or its executives related to the parcel tanker industry for conduct that occurred prior to January 15, 2003. In July 2006, Stolt-Nielsen filed its petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. In that petition, Stolt-Nielsen underscores its request for Supreme Court review by noting that in January 2005, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that the Company had not breached its Amnesty Agreement and issued an injunction preventing an indictment. In its ruling, the District Court made 89 findings of fact, including that Stolt-Nielsen had performed its side of the bargain under the Amnesty Agreement and that the government, therefore, could not break it. The District Court remains the only court to have considered this case on its merits. In March 2006, a two-judge panel of the Third Circuit ruled, on narrow separation of powers grounds, that district courts lack the authority to enjoin virtually any prosecution prior to indictment and overruled the injunction. The petition for certiorari challenges the basis of that Third Circuit ruling. No amicus curiae parties have opposed the grant of certiorari.

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