Ian Norris, the former Morgan Crucible CEO convicted for instigating a conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation into price fixing, has instituted a US Supreme Court appeal against his conviction. 

In our April edition, we noted that Mr Norris had lost his appeal against his conviction in the Court of Appeal Third Circuit.  A further application for rehearing, filed in April, was also rejected.

In his application to the Supreme Court, Mr Norris argues that he cannot be cannot be guilty of witness tampering because a person does not ‘corruptly persuade’ another by persuading them not to provide incriminating information, where that other person enjoys a privilege or right to decline to provide the information (that is, the right to claim the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.) 

In our April edition we also noted the Court’s finding that as the lawyer was representing the company rather than Mr Norris as an individual, and Morgan Crucible had waived privilege, the lawyer’s testimony could be used against Mr Norris.

The US National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers has submitted an amicus brief in support of Mr Norris, addressing the decision on privilege.  The brief argues that the Court’s decision “eviscerates the Attorney-client privilege, burdens defendants’ sixth amendment rights, and renders it impossible for outside council to fulfil their ethical duties to both the corporation and its officers”.  The brief also argues that the Court extended the test for the attorney client relationship too far, and in the process imposed an unreasonable burden on the defendant.

We now await another important decision in a case that is already being closely followed by lawyers around the world.