Protection of Government ProcessesState of Mind
Requirement --18 U.S.C. § 1503
The state of mind requirement of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 has been a
of some disagreement among the courts. Although there is agreement that the
requisite intent arises from the statutory term "corruptly," which is part
both the main clause and the omnibus clause of section 1503, there has been
difference of opinion on whether "corruptly" requires a specific intent to
Some courts have required only that the defendant "knowingly and
intentionally undertook an action from which an obstruction of justice was a
reasonably foreseeable result." United States v. Thomas, 916 F.2d
651 (11th Cir. 1990). See also United States v. Saget, 991
702, 713 (11th Cir.) (government not required to prove defendant had the
purpose of obstructing justice), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 950 (1993);
United States v. Kenny, 973 F.2d 339, 344 (4th Cir. 1992), citing
United States v. Neiswender, 590 F.2d 1269, 1273 (4th Cir.)
intentionally undertakes an act or attempts to effectuate an arrangement,
reasonably foreseeable consequence of which is to obstruct justice, violates
U.S.C. § 1503 even if his hope is that the judicial machinery will not
seriously impaired), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 963 (1979); Knight v.
United States, 310 F.2d 305 (5th Cir. 1962) ("specific intent must be to
some act or acts which tend to impede . . . the due administration of
Ethridge v. United States, 258 F.2d 234, 235 (9th Cir. 1958)
must "intend to do some act which would tend to corruptly impede or
administration of justice").
The weight of authority, however, requires the government prove
the defendant had a specific intent to obstruct or impede a pending judicial
proceeding. United States v. Littleton, 76 F.3d 614, 619 (4th Cir.
(false statements must have obstructed or been intended to obstruct the due
administration of justice); United States v. Maloney, 71 F.3d 645,
(7th Cir. 1995); United States v. Jespersen, 65 F.3d 993 (2d Cir.
United States v. Mullins, 22 F.3d 1365 (6th Cir. 1994) (government
prove that there was a judicial proceeding underway that defendant's actions
intended to obstruct); United States v. Wood, 6 F.3d 692 (10th Cir.
(defendant must have acted corruptly with the specific intent to obstruct or
impede the proceeding in its due administration of justice); United
Neal, 951 F.2d 630 (5th Cir. 1992) (essential element that defendant
with the specific intent to obstruct or impede the proceeding); United
v. Rasheed, 663 F.2d 843, 852 (9th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 454
1157 (1982); United States v. Haldeman, 559 F.2d 31, 114-15 (D.C.
1976) (per curiam), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 933 (1977).
The United States Supreme Court appears to side with those courts
requiring specific intent to obstruct as an element of a section 1503
In United States v. Aguilar, ___ U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 2357, 2362
the Court commented that for there to be a violation of section 1503, "[t]he
action taken by the accused must be with an intent to influence judicial or
jury proceedings. . . ." Id. at 2362. Although Aguilar was
decided on other grounds, the clear implication of the Court's statement is
a specific intent to obstruct is required under the statute.
"Corruptly" has been described to mean "for an evil or wicked
United States v. Ryan, 455 F.2d 728, 734 (9th Cir. 1972); "with the
purpose of obstructing justice," Rasheed, 663 F.2d at 852; "for an
improper motive," United States v. Haas, 583 F.2d 216, 220 (5th Cir.
1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 981 (1979); and, "at least in part, by
corrupt motive," United States v. Brand, 775 F.2d 1460, 1465 (11th
[cited in Criminal Resource Manual 1727; USAM 9-69.100]