- Let justice be done: conviction integrity units “operate within prosecutors’ offices to investigate old cases for errors or misconduct that may have led to a wrongful conviction.” [C.J. Ciaramella]
- “Allegation: Georgetown, Ind. man comes home to find his wife and two children killed. He’s detained for 13 years before he’s finally acquitted in a third trial. And this happens because the state lied about an ‘utterly unqualified’ assistant pretending to be a blood-spatter analyst. (The extent of his scientific training was a single chemistry class, which he flunked.) And there’s so, so much more. The state also lied about running a DNA test that could have exonerated the man. The second prosecutor was sanctioned for trying to cash in on a book deal. The first prosecutor ended up representing the real murderer. Click on the link, dear reader, for a shocking civil rights case that the Seventh Circuit is absolutely sending to trial.” [Institute for Justice “Short Circuit” on Camm v. Faith]
- In the new 2018-19 term Cato Supreme Court Review, Anthony J. Colangelo writes about Gamble v. U.S., the dual-sovereignty double jeopardy case;
- “Baby’s Death in Mother’s Bed Leads To 5-Year Prison Term. But Was It Her Fault?” [Cassi Feldman, The Appeal]
- Seattle: “King County Took Money From an Anti-Prostitution Organization. Then ‘Unprecedented’ Felony Prosecutions of Sex Buyers Began.” [Sydney Brownstone, The Stranger last year; more (judge rejects disqualification motion)]
- So it does happen: court denies prosecutor absolute immunity for withholding exculpatory evidence [Penate v. Kaczmarek, First Circuit]
Yesterday’s biggest news from the Supreme Court was not its 7-2 upholding of the Bladensburg, Md. Peace Cross (American Legion et al. v. American Humanist Association et al.; earlier). That outcome could readily have been foreseen given the result in earlier cases: Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, to say nothing of the five conservatives, are prepared to uphold “longstanding monuments, symbols, and practices” that may include religious content but do not impose any significant harms on those of other faiths or none. This World War I memorial qualifies.
Instead, the big news is the outcome in Gundy v. U.S. (earlier), a case over whether Congress can delegate to the Department of Justice the power to decide how severe the penalties will be in one application of the sex offender registration law. While the critique of excessive delegation did not carry the day this time (the vote was 4-3-1 with Justice Brett Kavanaugh not participating), Justice Samuel Alito indicated that he would be inclined to look at the issue in a future case, and Kavanaugh is thought (from his D.C. Circuit jurisprudence) to be similarly minded. If so, then a future case could establish the important principle that Congress must spell out penalties and prohibitions in law itself, rather than punt such issues to executive agencies, at least in criminal matters and perhaps also in some regulatory ones. That’s huge, since the Court has rejected improper-delegation theories since the New Deal.
Justice Neil Gorsuch’s dissent in Gundy, together with his scalding dissent (earlier) in the double jeopardy/dual sovereignty case Gamble v. U.S. on Monday, makes him the libertarian hero of the week.
- Gorsuch: “A free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.” And yet he and Ginsburg were the only dissenters from the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision Monday in Gamble v. U.S. to allow consecutive state and federal prosecutions over the same conduct, the so-called dual sovereignty exception to double jeopardy protection [Reuters, Ilya Shapiro, Cato brief (with ACLU and Constitutional Accountability Center) that had urged an end to the exception; and a conspiracy theory about Kavanaugh that wound up having absolutely no predictive value]
- “When Should Plaintiffs Be Able to Sue Anonymously?” [Eugene Volokh]
- 77-year-old antitrust consent decrees were designed for a music business that long since faded into history, DOJ’s decision to reconsider is welcome [Federalist Society podcast with Kristen Osenga and Mark Schultz, Osenga blog post]
- Clarence Darrow once boasted a cult following among American lawyers. His manipulative speech in the Leopold/Loeb case leaves you to wonder whether much will outlive the hype [Bryan Caplan]
- Federal aid-to-state programs have exploded in recent years, a good way to redistribute money and power into the hands of political elites with little taxpayer or voter accountability [Chris Edwards, Cato, new study and blog post]
- Dear Caterpillar: do you think there is much likelihood of consumer confusion about whether this coffee shop t-shirt is promoting earth-moving machinery? [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
Ken at Popehat has an explainer on how the case of Gamble v. U.S. before the Supreme Court, on the operation of the dual-sovereignty exception to double jeopardy protection, is 1) not the subject of some fiendish plot to give Trump pardons universal effect by way of a Kavanaugh fifth vote; 2) not a conventional left-right issue either, Ruth Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas having joined in an opinion questioning the current doctrine. (Cato has joined in an amicus brief with Brianne Gorod of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center to support the Ginsburg-Thomas position as more consistent with both originalism and civil liberties.) Earlier here (cert stage of Gamble) and here (similar Tyler case).
P.S. The Federalist Society has a link roundup and short Ilya Shapiro video on the case.
- Fiasco of Cliven Bundy prosecution points up that even those who break the law are entitled to a fair trial. “In the Bundy case, Judge Navarro slammed the FBI for withholding key evidence. Unfortunately, this seems to be standard procedure for the FBI.” [James Bovard, USA Today; Mark Joseph Stern, Slate; earlier]
- Don’t undermine structural protection Double Jeopardy Clause provides against prosecutorial overreach [Jay Schweikert on Cato amicus brief in Currier v. Virginia] Case gives SCOTUS chance to reconsider “dual sovereignty” exception to Double Jeopardy Clause [Ilya Shapiro on Cato certiorari brief in Gamble v. U.S.]
- “The room he was in happened to fall within 572 feet of a park and 872 feet of a school,” within the 1000 feet set by Tennessee law, result misery [C.J. Ciaramella and Lauren Krisai, Reason (“Drug-free school zone laws are rarely if ever used to prosecute sales of drugs to minors. Such cases are largely a figment of our popular imagination.”)]
- Missed last spring: this challenge to the “Standard Story” of mass incarceration [Adam Gopnik on John Pfaff’s “Locked In”]
- Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But with law having proliferated beyond anyone’s grasp, perhaps it should be? [Stephen Carter, Bloomberg, earlier]
- Another study finds decriminalizing prostitution reduces sexual abuse and rape [Alex Tabarrok]
- Even if troublesome for other reasons, discussion of nominees’ religious beliefs does not violate the Constitution’s Religious Test Clause [my post at Secular Right]
- I’m quoted toward the end of this report: Congress rather than courts likely to get ultimate say on defining “emoluments” [NPR with Peter Overby, audio and related article, earlier]
- Convention of the States? Federalist Society panel video with Thomas Brinkman, Jennifer Brunner, David Forte, Matt Huffman, Larry Obhof, Matthew Byrne [earlier on Article V conventions]
- Supreme Court opened — and should now close — “dual sovereignty” exception to rule against double jeopardy [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 2008, has articles on the U.S. Constitution by David Mayer and on the rule of law by Norman Barry;
- Following big First Amendment win in Slants case Matal v. Tam, feds drop effort to void trademark of Washington Redskins [Ilya Shapiro, Eugene Volokh, earlier]
- How feckless for an editorial board to undermine institutional legitimacy of a key check on executive power, the Supreme Court, by spreading notion that some of its seats are “stolen” [New York Times]
- Eastern District of Tumbleweeds? High court asked to curtail forum shopping in patent suits [Washington Legal Foundation on TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, more on E.D. Tex.]
- Federal charges result in plea deal. State then charges defendant over same conduct. Ought to call it double jeopardy, even if that means overturning misguided “dual sovereignty” doctrine [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry on cert petition in Walker v. Texas]
- “Justices Struggle With Cheerleader Uniform Case That Holds Big Implications For Fashion” [Daniel Fisher on Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands]
- More Federalist panels on Justice Scalia’s influence: showcase panel on his constitutional influence; federalism and separation of powers with Roger Pilon et al.; the impact of his writing style; criminal law and the Fourth Amendment; Heller, guns, and the Second Amendment;
- Appointments Clause makes one of few checks on unaccountable-by-design CFPB, Court should enforce it seriously [Ilya Shapiro on cert petition in Gordon v. CFPB]
As I mentioned in my CNN piece on Friday, various voices are calling for the federal prosecution of George Zimmerman following his acquittal on state-court charges [commentary about that: Jonathan Adler, Jacob Sullum, Steve Chapman, Eugene Volokh; see also the update to my Friday post regarding the possibility of “hate crime” charges] In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) takes the view that a federal prosecution would be improper double jeopardy, implicitly rebuking its own executive director, Anthony Romero, who had suggested otherwise in early comments to the press following the verdict [TalkLeft (“the organization came to its senses”), Politico, text of letter from Laura Murphy, director of ACLU Washington Office, PDF; see also David Bernstein]
As I noted in my CNN piece, the exception for “dual sovereignty” prosecutions arose in a 1959 Supreme Court case called Bartkus v. Illinois, decided 5-4, in which the dissenters were the four liberals: Earl Warren, William Douglas, Hugo Black and William Brennan. Here are a few things that Hugo Black had to say in his dissent, joined by Douglas and Warren: “Fear and abhorrence of governmental power to try people twice for the same conduct is one of the oldest ideas found in western civilization,” one that did not disappear “even in the Dark Ages.” And “retrials after acquittal have been considered particularly obnoxious, worse even, in the eyes of many, than retrials after conviction.” In short, “double prosecutions for the same offense” are “contrary to the spirit of our free country.” (& welcome Instapundit, InsiderOnline readers)