Saturday, June 19, 2021
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Gamble v. U.S.

Source: NBC News
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Gamble v. U.S. is a case awaiting a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court. It deals with the dual sovereignties exception to the double jeopardy rule. The double jeopardy rule dictates, “[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” However, the Court has long recognized the different derivations of sovereignty between states and the federal government. Using these holdings, the dual sovereignties exception allows both federal and state courts to convict someone of the same crime under the rationale that, due to the difference in prosecutors and laws applied, it is not the same offence. The major exception to the rule has been Puerto Rico, as it has been found to be, for judicial purposes, part of the federal government. The petitioners in Gamble seek to overrule the exception. Gamble was convicted in a U.S. District Court for possession of a firearm by a felon, and then also was convicted in Alabama state court for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. He moved to overturn his federal conviction on double jeopardy grounds, but both the district court and the Eleventh Circuit upheld the conviction.

The dual sovereignties exception should be overruled. In examining Petitioner’s argument, it boils down to two main points. The first one, on plain read, is that the double jeopardy rule does not allow the exception to exist. This is correct. Notwithstanding the sovereignties of the two codes, using the exception would be taking the elements of one crime and trying to prosecute in another case for the same elements but a different crime – which is definitely prohibited. The two gun violations were equivalent, so the federal indictment would not stand.

Secondly, Benton v. Maryland (1969), which found that the double jeopardy rule also applies to the states, severely underpins the dual sovereignties exception. Petitioner argues that if state convictions do not count toward double jeopardy convictions, then the dual sovereignties exception can exist, as the only double jeopardy-relevant prosecuting authority is the federal government. Therefore, due to the lack of reevaluation by courts after Benton, that exception needs to be reevaluated. While many precedents do not affect the validity of others, this fatal flaw discredits much of the precedent set in place after Benton.

The respondents argue that the differences between the derivation of federal and state sovereignties still allow the exception, as the sovereignties prosecute different offenses. However, this heavily federalist view of the respondents is incorrect. Federalism emphasizes a delegation of powers to different entities so that no one party becomes too powerful, not so that they work in an adversarial system to keep each other in check. Therefore, they still govern by the same set of powers and must operate as one entity. They are, for criminal justice purposes, the same sovereignty.

The decision of the Eleventh Circuit should be overturned.


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