Gamble v. United States
|Gamble v. United States|
|Argued December 6, 2018|
|Full case name||Terance Martez Gamble, Petitioner v. United States|
|Citations||TBD U.S. ___ (more)|
|Prior history||United States v. Gamble, 694 F. App'x 750 (11th Cir. 2017); cert. granted, 138 S. Ct. 2707 (2018).|
|Whether the Court should overrule the "separate sovereigns" exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause.|
|U.S. Const. amend. V|
Gamble v. United States is a pending United States Supreme Court case about the separate sovereignty exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allows both federal and state prosecution of the same crime as the governments are "separate sovereigns". Terance Martez Gamble was prosecuted under both state and then federal laws for possessing a gun while being a felon; his petition arguing that doing so was double jeopardy was denied due to the exception. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
The separate sovereigns doctrine holds that because the federal and state government are "separate sovereigns", the Double Jeopardy Clause does not apply to prosecution of the same crime under both federal and state laws. The doctrine is more than 150 years old. In the 1959 cases of Abbate v. United States and Bartkus v. Illinois the Supreme Court affirmed the doctrine. The doctrine has been criticized by many scholars as having no basis in the text of the clause.
Terance Martez Gamble, having served a prison sentence for a previous crime, was found to be in possession of a gun in a 2015 traffic stop, which was illegal under both Alabama state and federal laws because he was a felon. He was convicted under Alabama state law and given a one-year sentence; he was also prosecuted under federal laws, and after the district court concluded that double jeopardy did not apply in this case, he pled guilty with a 46-month sentence. Gamble appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, who affirmed the district court's decision based on the precedent of Abbate v. United States.
In June 2018 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Gamble's petition to the Supreme Court noted that in 2016, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas argued for a review of the separate sovereigns doctrine in a concurring opinion in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle; Ginsburg's opinion stated that "The matter warrants attention in a future case in which a defendant faces successive prosecutions by parts of the whole USA."
According to The Atlantic, the U.S. federal government contends that "overturning the dual-sovereignty doctrine would upend the country’s federalist system", and that the increasing number of federal criminal laws means that it is important that states be allowed to "preserve their own sphere of influence and prevent federal encroachment on law enforcement".
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute, and the Constitutional Accountability Center filed a joint amicus brief on the case, arguing that there is no textual basis in the Double Jeopardy Clause, which states that "[n]o person shall be ... subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb", for the doctrine, and that the rising amount of federal criminal laws and state-federal task forces means there will be more dual state-federal prosecution.
The case has been analysed in the context of the Special Counsel investigation into the Trump campaign; if the separate sovereigns doctrine is overruled, a pardon for federal crimes from President Donald Trump may prevent state prosecution. United States Senator Orrin Hatch filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing against the separate sovereigns doctrine; a spokesperson for him denied any relation of the brief to the investigation, saying that Hatch wants the doctrine to be overturned due to "the rapid expansion of both the scope and substance of modern federal criminal law".
According to Columbia Law professor Daniel Richman, state and federal charges usually have "no overlap, or almost no overlap, that would ring Fifth Amendment chimes in the absence of the dual sovereign analysis", and so the impact of overturning the separate sovereigns doctrine would be minimal.
Oral arguments were originally scheduled to be heard December 5, 2018, but were moved to a day later with December 5 taken as a day of mourning for George H. W. Bush, who died on November 30, 2018. Observers found the Court to be concerned about overruling 170 years of the doctrine and the instability that would result with this change, but did affirm that there is concern from academics and judiciaries on the doctrine's effects.
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- United States v. Gamble, 694 F. App'x 750 (11th Cir. 2017).
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