Rule of Law

SCOTUS Upholds Double Jeopardy Rule: What It Means For Manafort

The Supreme Court upholds the double jeopardy rule that allows states and the federal governments to prosecute for the same crime. The ruling could blunt President Trump’s pardon powers.

We survey this case and the others that the court has taken up recently.


Josh Gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor to Politico. (@joshgerstein)

Ian Farrell, professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. (@SturmCOL)

David Savage, Supreme Court correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. (@DavidGSavage)

From The Reading List

NBC News: “Supreme Court declines to change double jeopardy rule in a case with Manafort implications” — “The Supreme Court declined on Monday to change the longstanding rule that says putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy — a case that drew attention because of its possible implications for President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The 7-2 ruling was a defeat for an Alabama man, Terance Gamble, convicted of robbery in 2008 and pulled over seven years later for a traffic violation. When police found a handgun in his car, he was prosecuted under Alabama’s law barring felons from possessing firearms. The local U.S. attorney then charged Gamble with violating a similar federal law. Because of the added federal conviction, his prison sentence was extended by nearly three years.

“The Fifth Amendment says no person shall be ‘twice put in jeopardy of life or limb’ for the same offense. But for more than 160 years, the Supreme Court has ruled that being prosecuted once by a state and again in federal court, or the other way around, for the same crime doesn’t violate the protection against double jeopardy because the states and the federal government are ‘separate sovereigns.’

“The case attracted more than the usual attention because of the prospect that Trump may pardon Manafort, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for violating federal fraud laws. A presidential pardon could free him from federal prison, but it would not protect him from being prosecuted on similar state charges, which were filed by New York. Overturning the rule allowing separate prosecutions for the same offenses would have worked in Manafort’s favor.”

Lost Angeles Times: “With political power at stake, Supreme Court is set to rule on gerrymandering and the census” — “The Supreme Court is set to rule this month on two issues that could shape political power in the decade ahead — and also shape perceptions of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court he leads.

“With the court’s term coming down to its final weeks, the justices are due to decide on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, a practice that allows party leaders to draw maps for election districts that ensure their candidates will win most of their races. And they will rule on the Trump administration’s plan to ask all households about the citizenship status of family members as part of the 2020 census.

“‘To put it bluntly, both of these cases have major implications for the future of the Republican party,’ said Elizabeth B. Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a self-described progressive group. ‘If Roberts truly cares about the public perceiving him and his colleagues as something other than politicians in robes, he should be very worried by the potential impact to the legitimacy and public standing of the court.'”

The Hill: “Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort” — “The Supreme Court on Monday declined to overturn a longstanding doctrine on whether an individual can be prosecuted for the same crime twice under federal and state laws.

“The justices, in a 7-2 decision, found that the dual-sovereignty doctrine does not contradict the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause, which prevents an individual from being prosecuted for the same crime twice.

“The decision could have widespread implications for defendants, including former associates of President Trump who are hoping the president might pardon them.

“The ruling rejected the argument put forward by Alabama inmate Terance Gamble, who was prosecuted for the same gun offense by state and federal prosecutors.

“The decision could potentially impact Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is facing state charges that echo a federal conviction. The businessman, who was recently convicted on fraud charges in Virginia, could have benefited from the court overturning the doctrine.”

Politico: “Supreme Court rules in case watched for impact on Trump pardons” — “The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched ‘double jeopardy’ case, issuing a decision that preserves states’ power to limit the impact of future pardons by President Donald Trump or his successors.

“In a 7-2 ruling, the justices declined to disturb a longstanding legal principle known as dual sovereignty, which allows state governments to bring their own charges against defendants already tried or convicted in federal court, or vice versa.

“Lawyers for an Alabama man facing a gun charge in federal court after pleading guilty to the same offense in state court — resulting in a nearly three-year extension of his prison sentence — failed in their effort to persuade the justices to hold that the Constitution’s prohibition on double jeopardy prevents such follow-on prosecutions.

“The federal government had argued that overturning the dual-sovereignty doctrine would upend the country’s federalist system, and that the phenomenon of overcriminalization makes states’ ability to preserve their own sphere of influence and prevent federal encroachment on law enforcement more important.”