Victims’ Families File Petition in the Fifth Circuit Seeking to Enforce Rights in the Boeing Case
Earlier today, I filed a Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) petition in the Fifth Circuit for families whose relatives were killed in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes. The petition argues that the U.S. District for the Northern District of Texas (O’Connor, J.) erred in ruling that it could not provide a remedy for the Justice Department’s failure to confer with the families before the Department finalized its deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with Boeing. I’ve blogged about this case previously—including posts about the initial CVRA challenge, the district court’s ruling finding “victim” status, and the district court’s recent ruling finding that the families could not enforce their rights. In this post, I summarize the arguments in the petition for overturning the district court’s recent ruling.
As discussed in earlier posts, the case arises from the Justice Department secretly negotiating a DPA with Boeing, immunizing it from prosecution for its crime of concealing safety information about the 737 MAX from the FAA. The district court had previously ruled that the families represented “crime victims” under the CVRA, because Boeing’s crime directly and proximately caused the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes. (If you’re interested in the topic of how to define a “victim” in the CVRA and other enactments, I’ve just released a co-authored law review article on the issue.) And the court had previously ruled that the Justice Department had violated the families’ CVRA right to confer with prosecutors by secretly cutting the deal. But two weeks ago, in a thirty-page opinion, the district court ruled that it could not enforce the families’ rights.
In the petition, I argue that the district court was, indeed, empowered to enforce the families’ rights. Here’s the introduction (some citations removed):
This case arises out of “the deadliest corporate crime in our nation’s history.” As the district court found, Boeing’s conspiracy to defraud the FAA directly and proximately killed 346 people—leaving behind 346 grieving families. Congress gave those families rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. But the Government cared more about protecting Boeing’s reputation than the families’ rights. It misled the families as to whether a criminal investigation existed and then secretly cut a deferred prosecution deal without informing the families at all.
Among the rights that Congress protected was a victim’s “reasonable right to confer” with prosecutors. 18 U.S.C. § 3771(a)(5). And in 2015, Congress reinforced this right, by mandating that a victim has “[t]he right
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