Tull v. United States

RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION:Harrison County Court

DOCKET NO.: 85-1259
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 481 US 412 (1987)
ARGUED: Jan 21, 1987
DECIDED: Apr 28, 1987

Lawrence G. Wallace – on behalf of Respondent
Richard R. Nageotte – for petitioner
Richard N. Nageotte – on behalf of Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Tull v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 21, 1987 in Tull v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 28, 1987 in Tull v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in No. 85-1259, Tull against the United States, and No. 86-39, Burlington Northern Railroad Company against Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Tull versus the United States is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The government sued the petitioner in this case for civil penalties of $22,890,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act.

The question for decision is whether the Seventh Amendment guaranteed petitioner right for a jury trial on both liability and the amount of the penalty.

Petitioner demanded a jury trial, and the demand was denied by the District Court and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Also rejecting petitioner’s arguments that under the Seventh Amendment he was entitled to a jury trial.

We reverse and remand.

We hold, for reasons stated in the opinion filed with the Clerk that this suit for civil penalties is analogous to an action for debt, within the jurisdiction of English Courts of Law prior to the adoption of the Seventh Amendment, and therefore that petitioner’s liability for penalties must, on the next demand, be tried by a jury.

But we hold further that the statute, which provides that the amount of the penalty if the jury finds liability, shall be assessed by trial judges and not by the jury does not infringe on the constitutional right for a jury trial.

Justice Scalia joined by Justice Stevens joins parts 1 and 2 of the opinion and has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.