In Tull v. United States, the United States brought suit against Edward Lunn Tull, a real estate developer, for illegally discharging fill into wetlands in violation of the Clean Water Act. Prior to trial, Tull demanded a jury trial.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied Tull’s demand and, after a bench trial, concluded that Tull had illegally filled wetland areas and imposed civil penalties.
The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision.
In reversing and remanding the case for a jury determination of Tull’s liability, the Supreme Court held that while the assessment of civil penalties after a finding of liability does not implicate the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial, actions by the Government seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief are analogous to suits brought to punish culpable individuals in “suits at common law” and thus, the determination of liability in such actions implicated the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury.