High Court Likely to Allow Dual State, Federal Charges

A majority of Supreme Court justices sounded unlikely to overturn more than a century of doctrine that allows states and the federal government to prosecute someone for the same criminal conduct. The case has implications for any pardons that President Trump might issue for those prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

A majority of Supreme Court justices sounded unlikely Thursday to overturn more than a century of doctrine that allows states and the federal government to prosecute someone for the same criminal conduct, reports the Washington Post. While it went unmentioned during oral arguments, the case has implications for any pardons that President Trump might issue for those prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller and convicted in federal court. Under the status quo, states might still be able to prosecute under their own laws those who receive a presidential pardon, which applies only to federal charges.

Usual ideological pairings were scrambled as the court discussed the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which says no one shall be “subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” The doctrine allowing dual prosecutions in state and federal courts is an exception to the prohibition, recognized by the Supreme Court since the 19th century. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had called for a fresh look at the “separate sovereigns” doctrine and described it Thursday as a “double-whammy” for criminal defendants. The colleague most outspoken in apparent agreement with her was conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch. Most adamant on the other side of the issue were conservative Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and liberal Justice Elena Kagan. Kagan demanded that Louis Chaiten, a lawyer representing an Alabama felon, explain why the court should not apply its usual standard of letting decided issues stand. New Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who during his confirmation hearings was repeatedly questioned about whether he would abide by the court’s established decisions, joined Kagan. Chaiten  said,“This rule is egregiously wrong.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

High Court Case This Week Could Affect Manafort

The Supreme Court on Thursday will take up the case of a small-time Alabama felon, Terance Gamble, who complains that his convictions by state and federal prosecutors for the same gun possession crime violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy. The issue could affect state plans to prosecute Paul Manafort if he is pardoned by President Trump.

The Supreme Court on Thursday will take up the case of a small-time Alabama felon, Terance Gamble, who complains that his convictions by state and federal prosecutors for the same gun possession crime violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy, the Washington Post reports. Likely to be watching closely will be those concerned about a big-time felon, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was prosecuted by special counsel Robert Mueller for tax fraud. With President Trump keeping alive prospects that he might pardon Manafort, Gamble v. United States might be redubbed Manafort v. Mueller, joked Thomas Goldstein, an attorney who regularly argues before the Supreme Court.

The outcome in the case could affect nascent plans by states to prosecute Manafort under their own tax evasion laws. New York in particular has expressed interest, should Trump pardon Manafort on his federal convictions. The double jeopardy clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment prohibits more than one prosecution or punishment for the same offense. The Supreme Court since the 1850s has made an exception, allowing successive prosecutions and punishments if one is brought by state prosecutors and the other by the federal government. In Gamble, the court is reconsidering these precedents. Almost none of the briefs in the case speculate on how a presidential pardon of a federal conviction would affect prosecutors at the state level should the so-called separate sovereigns doctrine be renounced. While Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was pending, a theory emerged that the Trump administration was in a hurry to get him on the Supreme Court in time to have him participate in the case. Trump’s Justice Department urged the Supreme Court not to take the case. It says the status quo, allowing state and federal prosecutions, should remain in place.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Expected High Court Ruling on ‘Excessive’ Fines Boosts Nationwide Movement

As the Supreme Court signals it may rule in favor of a defendant who claims civil forfeiture violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “excessive fines,” a coalition of progressives, conservatives and libertarians is preparing to celebrate. But local governments could lose a major revenue source. 

A growing national campaign to reduce the high court fees and fines that land many poor defendants in jail because of failure to pay is poised to received a major boost from the Supreme Court.

In a case watched closely by both the left and right, the Supreme Court appears ready to rule in favor of a defendant who claims the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “excessive fines” should require Indiana authorities to return the Land Rover they seized in a drug case.

Tyson Timbs

Convicted drug dealer Tyson Timbs was at the Supreme Court this week arguing he should get back his impounded Land Rover. Photo courtesy ScotusBlog.

The justices’ questions during oral arguments this week suggested a majority agree the federal ban applies to states—signaling a consensus that could affect civil forfeiture cases as well as the escalating court fines and costs that often land poor defendants in jail because they can’t afford them, according to SCOTUSblog.

State and local governments are also paying close attention, “because fines and forfeitures have become a key source of revenue – bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” wrote SCOTUSBlog correspondent Amy Howe.

“By the time oral argument ended [Wednesday] morning, the justices seemed ready to say that the excessive fines clause does apply to the states, even if they don’t say much more than that.”

The case has attracted amicus briefs from groups across the political spectrum, including the Cato Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and the Juvenile Justice Law Center.

“Across the country, youth are pushed into the justice system and even into correctional settings because they can’t afford fines and fees,” said Jessica Feierman, senior managing director of the Juvenile Law Center, according to a report in the Los Alamos Daily Post.

“Our brief urged the Court to recognize that the Constitution protects against these harmful and excessive sanctions.”

The case, Timbs v Indiana, was brought by Tyson Timbs, an Indiana resident whose 2012 Land Rover was impounded after he pleaded guilty to drug charges. Timbs claimed that the value of the car—$42,000—was nearly four times the maximum fine that could have been imposed on him by the state under drug sentencing guidelines.

But the state countered that it was justified in seizing the vehicle since it had been used to transport drugs.

“Tyson has paid his debt to society,” said Sam Gedge, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents Timbs. “He’s taken responsibility for what he’s done. He’s paid fees. He’s in drug treatment.

“He’s holding down a job, and he’s staying clean. But the State of Indiana wants to take his vehicle, too, and give the proceeds to private lawyers and to the officers who seized it. The Excessive Fines Clause exists to combat precisely these types of abuses.”

Chief Justice John Roberts had countered that the state had a right to seize the car since it was an “instrumentality” of Timbs’ crime.  “This is how he got to the deal place and how he carried the drugs,” said Roberts.

Nevertheless, the justices appeared to agree that there was a long-established legal precedent holding that amendments to the Constitution applied to the states—which had been the question that brought the case to the High Court—even if they were at odds over the question of whether seizing the Land Rover was “excessive” under the terms of the Eighth Amendment.

Two lower courts had already agreed that the forfeiture of the Land Rover was excessive, so a ruling in favor of Timbs would likely enable him to get his car back.

Such a ruling, however, could also put wind in the sails of a growing national movement to reign in the fines and fees that effectively hold poor defendants hostage to the justice system.

That’s one reason progressives have made common cause with conservatives and libertarians in opposing civil forfeitures.

“[Many of] these forfeitures that are occurring today seem grossly disproportionate to the crimes being charged,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

See also: “Small Heroin Sale Tees Up High Court Test of Forfeiture Laws

from https://thecrimereport.org

Indiana Man Seems a Winner in Excessive Fines Case

Based on Wednesday’s oral arguments, it could be a unanimous vote for Tyson Timbs, who says police shouldn’t have seized his $42,000 Land Rover in a small drug case.

Many Americans are surprised to learn that not all provisions of the Bill of Rights are applied against states, as they are to the federal government. It took the 14th Amendment in 1868, and work still underway, to apply or “incorporate” the Bill of Rights, one by one, to the states. In an argument Wednesday, the two newest Supreme Court justices seemed incredulous and impatient about the slowness of the process, reports the National Law Journal. “Here we are in 2018 still litigating incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Really?” said Justice Neil Gorsuch. He was addressing Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, who was arguing against a broad incorporation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines, citing the long history of government seizure of personal property.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh added, “Isn’t it just too late in the day to argue that any of the Bill of Rights is not incorporated?” Some scholars including Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese in the 1980s said the incorporation doctrine was “constitutionally suspect” and based on “intellectually shaky foundation.” Only a handful of Bill of Rights provisions remain unincorporated, including the right to be indicted by a grand jury, the right to have jurors from the defendant’s state, and the right to a trial in civil cases. The Gorsuch and Kavanaugh comments made it likely that the court will incorporate the excessive fines clause, which has been a cause celebre for libertarian groups like the Institute for Justice. The institute represents Tyson Timbs, an Indiana man whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized by police after he was arrested for trafficking a small amount of illegal drugs. The vote for Timbs might be unanimous, though Chief Justice John Roberts asserted that seizing property that was an “instrumentality that was part of the crime” is a longstanding practice.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Justices Consider Indiana ‘Excessive Fines’ Case

The justices hear arguments Wednesday on whether the Constitution’s prohibition of “excessive fines” applies to the states. Conservative and liberal groups both are protesting the trend of more fines and forfeitures.

Tyson Timbs sold heroin worth less than $400 to undercover police officers in 2013, a crime for which he lost a Land Rover that cost him 100 times that amount. The disparity is at the heart of a Supreme Court case being argued Wednesday on whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “excessive fines” applies to the states. If the justices rule that it does, hefty fees, fines and forfeitures imposed by state and local governments may be in jeopardy, reports USA Today. Indiana’s seizure of Timbs’ $42,058 Land Rover has united conservative and liberal interest groups against what they see as increasingly greedy governments. Two dozen friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed on his behalf from groups as distinct as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Ten million people owed more than $50 billion in such fines and forfeitures, said a study by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the National Institute of Justice. It’s a trend the court’s conservative and liberal justices might find objectionable. Among examples cited: a Georgia man was sentenced to pay $360 monthly for stealing a $2 can of beer; a Missouri couple was fined $180,000 for lacking turf grass in their yard; a Michigan man who underpaid his 2011 property tax by $8.41 had his property auctioned off for $24,500; a Colorado man was fined $678 and had to pay $1,680 more in collection fees for violating open container laws and driving without proof of insurance. Timbs’ conviction resulted in a year’s home detention, five years’ probation and $1,200 in fees. It was the seizure of his SUV, purchased with life insurance proceeds after his father’s death, that led to the lawsuit.

from https://thecrimereport.org

High Court Issue: Police Abuse vs. Free Speech

The Supreme Court is considering whether to allow lawsuits claiming abuse of police power in retaliation for exercising free speech rights. The case argued on Monday concerned a claim for retaliatory arrest at a festival in remote Alaska.

The Supreme Court is considering whether to allow lawsuits claiming abuse of police power in retaliation for exercising free speech rights. The case argued on Monday concerned a claim for retaliatory arrest at a festival in remote Alaska, but several justices seemed to have an array of controversies in mind, the New York Times reports. “You can think of it,” Justice Elena Kagan said, “as a case where an individual police officer …decides to arrest for jaywalking somebody wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt or, alternatively, a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap.” Some courts have said the existence of probable cause for the arrest always is enough to bar lawsuits claiming retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. Others have allowed juries to decide whether officers intended to suppress protected speech.

The Supreme Court has been struggling to find a line separating two kinds of arrests. At one extreme, said Justice Samuel Alito, are people arrested after mouthing off to the police in heated settings. On the other are serious abuses. “A journalist has written something critical of the police department,” he said, and later, that hypothetical journalist is arrested for slightly exceeding the speed limit. Alito suggested that the court would have a difficult time fashioning a standard that would bar the first kind of suit but allow the second. The new case arose from an encounter at the Arctic Man ski and snowmobile event in Alaska’s Hoodoo Mountains. Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that the setting should give officers some leeway. “You’ve got 10,000 mostly drunk people in the middle of nowhere and you’ve got eight police officers,” he said. Russell Bartlett was arrested after yelling at police officers and refusing to answer questions. Bartlett sued, saying he was arrested for exercising his First Amendment rights.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Ruth Bader ‘Gins-Bubble’ Calms Worried Fans of 85-Year-Old Justice

Noting the flood of anxious tweets and the creation of a tongue-in-cheek protective bubble by TV host Jimmy Kimmel, after Justice Ginsburg was hospitalized last week, BBC observed that “half of America panics when this woman falls ill.”

Although Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned home on Friday after being hospitalized from a fall, anxiety surrounding the health of the oldest sitting justice will continue, reports BBC News Magazine.

Noting that the reaction from the liberal corners of social media was an instantaneous mixture of well-wishes and barely-suppressed horror, the magazine noted that “half of America panics” when the justice falls ill.

The magazine cited  one typical comment on social media: “#RuthBaderGinsburg DON’T YOU DARE DIE WE NEED YOU!

“I hereby donate all of my ribs and organs to Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” wrote Lauren Duca, a columnist for Teen Vogue.

On Friday evening, after the justice was released from the hospital, and her spokesperson said she was “doing well,” according to a report from USA Today, late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel introduced the “Ruth Bader Gins-bubble” on his program, saying the 85-year-old needed to be “protected at all costs” as a Ginsburg stand-in rolled on stage encased in a gigantic plastic bubble.

If Ginsburg were to retire or become too ill to serve, President Donald Trump would be able to cement the court’s conservative majority with the appointment of his third justice, after Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, BBC noted.

The fall kept Ginsburg from attending Thursday’s formal investiture ceremony for new Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

See Also: Justice Ginsburg Released From Hospital, ‘Doing Well’

from https://thecrimereport.org

Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized for Broken Ribs

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized Thursday morning after fracturing three ribs during a fall in her office. Court watchers are keeping tabs on the health of the 85-year-old justice.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized Thursday morning after fracturing three ribs during a fall in her office Wednesday night, the Washington Post reports. Ginsburg, 85, was admitted to George Washington University Hospital for observation and treatment.

The court said Ginsburg returned home Wednesday night but went to the hospital  after “experiencing discomfort overnight.” Tests showed that she fractured three ribs on her left side. Given the 5-to-4 split on the court in conservatives’ favor on many controversial issues, court watchers are keeping a close eye on the health of the justices.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Republican Senators Call Kavanaugh Sex Charges False

The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee issued a final report Saturday on its investigations into alleged sexual abuse by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, concluding that none of the incidents alleged during his confirmation hearing had any merit.

The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee issued a 414-page report Saturday on its investigations into alleged sexual abuse by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, concluding that none of the incidents alleged during his confirmation hearing had any merit, the National Law Journal reports. “This was a serious and thorough investigation that left no stone unturned in our pursuit of the facts,” said Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). “In the end, there was no credible evidence to support the allegations against the nominee.” The report focused primarily on the accusations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s at a high school party. In addition to her explosive public testimony on Sept. 27, the committee contacted 17 people with information relevant to her allegations.

Many names were redacted, but overall, their statements undermined every aspect of the Ford incident. The report said that two men separately contacted the committee “claiming that they believed they had an encounter with Dr. Ford around the time of the alleged incident. Although each individual described details that in some respects seemed to fit Dr. Ford’s allegations against Justice Kavanaugh, both men, who were not named in the report, described consensual encounters.” The report also said that three people who knew Ford when she attended the University of North Carolina told the committee that Ford had a “robust and active” social life there, contradicting her statement that the incident with Kavanaugh resulted in her having a limited social life. Also discussed in the report were allegations by other women who came forward during the confirmation process. Those incidents were also found to have no basis in fact and several have been referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution under federal law against providing “materially false statements” to the committee.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Grassley Seeks Charges Against KY Woman for Kavanaugh Letter

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) says Judy Munro-Leighton of Louisville should face charges for accusing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. She was linked to an anonymous letter sent during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

A Louisville woman has been targeted by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and President Trump in connection with sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. Judy Munro-Leighton was named by Grassley in a letter to federal authorities requesting they investigate her connection to an anonymous letter sent during Kavanaugh’s nomination process that accused him of sexual assault. Trump tweeted, “Can you imagine if he didn’t become a Justice of the Supreme Court because of her disgusting False Statements.”

Grassley said Munro-Leighton claimed she had written a letter alleging rape at the hands of Kavanaugh and one of his friends in the back seat of a car, but disavowed the letter after she was contacted by Senate investigators. The letter, which was sent to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), was signed by a Jane Doe from Oceanside, Ca. Kavanaugh was questioned about the letter under oath and categorically denied the allegations. Grassley claims Munro-Leighton is a left-wing activist and told investigators the sexual assault claim was “just a ploy.” He asked federal authorities to investigate the woman on allegations of making false statements and obstruction. A 2017 letter to the editor written by Munro-Leighton referred to Trump as “the madman in our White House.”

from https://thecrimereport.org