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 TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case 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 ManafortUS sanctions four Ukrainians for aiding Russian influence operations Manafort book set for August publication Accused spy's lawyers say plans to leave country were over Trump, not arrest 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 AlitoSupreme Court sides with murder defendant in major evidentiary ruling Steve Bannon's Supreme Court? Supreme Court seems wary of Boston's refusal to allow flying of Christian flag MORE wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasSupreme Court sides with murder defendant in major evidentiary ruling Supreme Court rejects Trump's bid to shield records from Jan. 6 committee Steve Bannon's Supreme Court? MORE, Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerOvernight Health Care — Another Texas abortion setback Supreme Court rebuffs abortion providers again over Texas 6-week ban Sotomayor, Gorsuch issue statement denying tensions over masks MORE, Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorOvernight Health Care — Another Texas abortion setback Supreme Court rebuffs abortion providers again over Texas 6-week ban Supreme Court sides with murder defendant in major evidentiary ruling MORE, Elena KaganElena KaganOvernight Health Care — Another Texas abortion setback Supreme Court rebuffs abortion providers again over Texas 6-week ban Supreme Court appears divided over Cruz campaign finance challenge MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court sides with murder defendant in major evidentiary ruling Ossoff and Collins clash over her past support for voting rights legislation Supreme Court rejects Trump's bid to shield records from Jan. 6 committee MORE and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSecond gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House Former colleagues honor Reid in ceremony at Capitol Congressional Progressive Caucus backs measure to expand Supreme Court MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Sotomayor, Gorsuch issue statement denying tensions over masks Steve Bannon's Supreme Court? 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.