Marinello v. United States

Justia Summary

In 2004-2009, the IRS investigated Marinello’s tax activities. In 2012, Marinello was indicted for violating 26 U.S.C. 7212(a) (the Omnibus Clause), which forbids “corruptly or by force or threats of force . . . obstruct[ing] or imped[ing], or endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede, the due administration” of the Internal Revenue Code. The judge instructed the jury that it must find that Marinello “corruptly” engaged in at least one specified activity, but was not told that it needed to find that Marinello knew he was under investigation and intended corruptly to interfere with that investigation. The Second Circuit affirmed his conviction. The Supreme Court reversed. To convict a defendant under the Omnibus Clause, the government must prove the defendant was aware of a pending tax-related proceeding, such as a particular investigation or audit, or could reasonably foresee that such a proceeding would commence. The verbs “obstruct” and “impede” require an object. The object in 7212(a) is the “due administration of [the Tax Code],” referring to discrete targeted administrative acts rather than every conceivable task involved in the Tax Code’s administration. In context, the Omnibus Clause serves as a “catchall” for the obstructive conduct the subsection sets forth, not for every violation that interferes with routine administrative procedures. A broader reading could result in a lack of fair warning. Just because a taxpayer knows that the IRS will review her tax return annually does not transform every Tax Code violation into an obstruction charge.