Is Virginia Real?


U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia has been in the news of late. Last week, he announced plans to pursue prosecutions of high-profile securities-fraud cases in his district. For years, securities-fraud cases have been, with rare exception, primarily handled by the Southern District of New York. MacBride takes comfort in a December 2007 Fourth Circuit case that held that the Eastern District of Virginia has jurisdiction over such cases due to the location of the SEC’s EDGAR database in Alexandria, Virginia. See United States v. Johnson, 510 F.3d 521 (4th Cir. 2007).

If the Fourth Circuit decision laid the groundwork for this shift, the economic meltdown and public rage at Wall Street are helping to fuel it. Not only is the Eastern District of Virginia known as the “rocket docket” for its speedy disposition of cases, it also metes out harsher punishment for white-collar crimes. A brief analysis of 2009 U.S. Sentencing Commission (“USSC”) statistics bears this out.

According to USSC data for fiscal year 2009, 9.4% of all defendants nationwide were sentenced for fraud-related crimes. Corresponding percentages in the S.D.N.Y and E.D. Va. were higher at 17.0% and 10.7%, respectively — a gap that is certain to close within the next several years.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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