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United States v. Humphries

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 29, 2013

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Harry Humphries, Defendant-Appellant.

Argued and Submitted May 8, 2013 —Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California John F. Walter, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:10-cr-01106-JFW-3

Gary P. Burcham, Burcham & Zugman, San Diego, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

André Birotte, Jr., United States Attorney, Robert E. Dugdale, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Criminal Division, and Dennis Mitchell (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Harry Pregerson and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges, and Wiley Y. Daniel, District Judge. [*]

SUMMARY[**]

Criminal Law

Affirming a conviction for illegally storing hazardous wastes without a permit in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the panel held that the district court properly instructed the jury that, for purposes of RCRA, "disposal" of hazardous waste begins not with an individual's subjective decision to dispose but with an act of disposal.

OPINION

FISHER, Circuit Judge:

Harry Humphries was convicted by jury trial of one count of illegally storing hazardous wastes without a permit in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. § 6928(d)(2). Humphries appeals his conviction, arguing that the district court improperly instructed the jury about the distinction between "storage" and "disposal" of hazardous waste in response to a jury inquiry. We hold that the district court properly instructed the jury that, for purposes of RCRA, "disposal" of hazardous waste begins not with an individual's subjective decision to dispose but with an act of disposal. We therefore affirm Humphries' conviction.[1]

Background

Starting in the early 1990s, Humphries was part-owner of a company that manufactured and blended chemicals. The company's manufacturing processes produced used toluene and excess methanol. The company stored the used toluene and excess methanol at its facility, which was located in a building it rented from a third-party owner.

In late 2005, the owner sold the building, forcing Humphries' company to shut down and move out. Chemicals that had been stored on-site, including the used toluene and excess methanol, were eventually removed from the facility in early 2006 by EnviroClean, a permitted hazardous waste disposal company.

In 2010, Humphries was indicted on one count of knowingly storing hazardous wastes – the used toluene and excess methanol – without a permit between September 30, 2005, and December 6, 2005, in violation of RCRA, 42 U.S.C. § 6928. Humphries' primary defense at trial was that he was not required to obtain a permit for the storage of used toluene and excess methanol because he reused or sold those materials rather than simply storing them. As relevant here, he also argued that he ...


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