Officers Beware: The Snowballing Expansion of the Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine Into Civil Liability Under the Clean Water Act Open Access
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The expansion of the responsible corporate officer doctrine into civil liability has been rapid and persistent since the decision in United States v. Hodges X-Ray in 1986 bridged the gap between the doctrine's creation to circumvent the mens rea requirement in criminal violations of public health and welfare statutes and civil liability where scienter is not required. Courts have since applied the doctrine to civil liability under various federal and state environmental statutes. Recently, courts have applied the doctrine to impose civil liability against corporate officers under the Clean Water Act. In doing so, these courts have misapplied earlier case law, confused the doctrine with "individual" liability under the act, and blindly relied upon similarly flawed decisions. In the process, the clear intent of Congress is ignored as set forth in the unique, deliberate, and precise language of the enforcement provision of the act.