Issue: Whether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the federal government are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution.
Judgment: Affirmed, 6-2, in an opinion by Justice Kagan on June 9, 2016. Justice Ginsburg filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.
Richard Wolf posts,
Puerto Rico has its own Constitution and elects its own leaders, but it remains under the thumb of Congress, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 6-2 decision.
The case involved a simple criminal prosecution for firearms sales, but the broader dispute focused on the commonwealth’s autonomy. Lawyers for Puerto Rico argued that it should be able to try two men who already had pleaded guilty in federal court. JusticeElena Kagan, writing for the majority, said that would amount to double jeopardy.
“There is no getting away from the past,” Kagan wrote. “Because the ultimate source of Puerto Rico’s prosecutorial power is the federal government … the Commonwealth and the United States are not separate sovereigns.”
In other news, House Approves Bipartisan Bill To Address Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis. Good luck with that.