Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort

Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort
© Greg Nash

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 TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE 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 ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ releases new tranche of Mueller witness documents Treasury adviser pleads guilty to making unauthorized disclosures in case involving Manafort DOJ argues Democrats no longer need Mueller documents after impeachment vote MORE, 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.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance unveiled a mortgage fraud indictment against Manafort in March, just moments after Manafort was sentenced in federal court in D.C.  

Trump has distanced himself from the possibility of pardoning Manafort, but has expressed sympathy for his former campaign head, fueling speculation that a pardon could be in the works.

Trump would be unable to pardon Manafort on any state charges.

Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoAppeals court appears wary of letting Trump reinstate death sentences Justices grapple with 'Bridgegate' convictions Justice Roberts neglects his own role in tilting American democracy MORE wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasSanders campaign official: Biden 'actively courted pro-segregation senators' to block black students from white schools Electability is key to Democrats' 2020 fortunes Congress grants military members partial victory, but Feres Doctrine survives MORE, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerJustices grapple with 'Bridgegate' convictions The Trumpification of the federal courts Justices grapple with multibillion-dollar ObamaCare case MORE, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorJustice Roberts neglects his own role in tilting American democracy Turley: Testifying for Republicans should not be a sin for academics Buttigieg, Klobuchar lay out criteria for potential judicial nominees MORE, Elena KaganElena KaganButtigieg, Klobuchar lay out criteria for potential judicial nominees Welcome to third-world democracy and impeachment Justices grapple with multibillion-dollar ObamaCare case MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment January reminds us why courts matter — and the dangers of 'Trump judges' Planned Parenthood launches M campaign to back Democrats in 2020 MORE and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgEqual Rights Amendment will replace equality with enforced sameness SCOTUS 'TRAP law' case and the erosion of abortion rights Trump and Obama equally admired? Eight things popularity polls tell us MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchJanuary reminds us why courts matter — and the dangers of 'Trump judges' Planned Parenthood launches M campaign to back Democrats in 2020 Appeals court appears wary of letting Trump reinstate death sentences MORE each filed dissenting opinions, and Thomas issued a separate concurring opinion.

In the majority opinion, the justices rejected Gamble’s reading of the Double Jeopardy Clause, finding that the provision “honors the substantive differences between the interests that two sovereigns can have in punishing the same act.” 

“They suggest that because the division of federal and state power was meant to promote liberty, it cannot support a rule that exposes Gamble to a second sentence,” the opinion states. “This argument fundamentally misunderstands the governmental structure established by the Constitutions.”

And the justices largely rejected Gamble’s legal arguments, which cited, among other things, the Founding Fathers' original drafts of the Fifth Amendment and English common law.

Alito wrote that doing away with the dual sovereignty rule would "do little to trim the reach of federal criminal law, and it would not even prevent many successive state and federal prosecutions for the same criminal conduct" without further action by the court.

In a dissenting opinion, Ginsburg wrote that considering the state and federal government as separate sovereigns “overlooks a basic tenet of our federal system.” She argued that the separate sets of rights for each form of government was intended to secure the rights of the people, not to allow the further prosecution of crimes. 

“Different parts of the ‘WHOLE’ United States should not be positioned to prosecute a defendant a second time for the same offense,” Ginsburg wrote.

And Gorsuch wrote that a “free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it’s happy with the result.”

He wrote that the doctrine “finds no meaningful support in the text of the Constitution, its original public meaning, structure, or history."

“Instead the Constitution promises all Americans that they will never suffer double jeopardy,” Gorsuch wrote. “I would enforce that guarantee.”

--Updated at 12:12 p.m.