Criminal Venue in the Federal Courts: The Obstruction of Justice Puzzle

Courts have struggled to determine venue for cases involving obstruction of justice with similarly inconsistent results. The circuits have divided over where to lay venue in prosecutions for obstruction of justice when the defendant allegedly acted in one judicial district to obstruct a proceeding that was pending in another. This Note argues that formalistic analysis, which has led courts to set venue in the district of the affected trial, should be rejected in favor of a more policy-oriented approach. Part I demonstrates that a formalistic statutory analysis that closely inspects either legislative history or the language of the statute ultimately fails to reveal congressional guidance. Accordingly, Part II examines the concerns underlying constitutional venue limitations. The Note explores the history of the district-of-the-crime test and concludes that the test was intended as a :flexible rule to improve factfinding in criminal cases. Thus, the overriding consideration in venue problems should be the accessibility of witnesses and tangible evidence for investigation and use at trial. Applying this principle to obstruction of justice cases, this Note concludes that because witnesses and evidence will ordinarily be most available where the obstructive acts were committed, venue should lie in the district where. the defendant allegedly acted.