__ U.S. __ (2019), 17-646, Gamble v. United States

Docket Nº:17-646
Citation:__ U.S. __, 139 S.Ct. 1960
Opinion Judge:ALITO Justice.
Party Name:Terance Martez GAMBLE, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES
Attorney:Jeffrey B. Wall, Acting Solicitor General, Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General, Eric J. Feigin, Jenny C. Ellickson, Assistants to the Solicitor General, Ross B. Goldman, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent. Barre C. Dumas, Mobile, AL, Robert N. Stander, Jo...
Judge Panel:ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and THOMAS, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., and GORSUCH, J., filed dissenting opinions. Justice THOMAS, concurring. Justice GINSBURG, dissenting Justi...
Case Date:June 17, 2019
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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__ U.S. __ (2019)

139 S.Ct. 1960

Terance Martez GAMBLE, Petitioner

v.

UNITED STATES

No. 17-646

United States Supreme Court

June 17, 2019

Argued December 6, 2018

Syllabus

[*]

Petitioner Gamble pleaded guilty to a charge of violating Alabama’s felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm statute. Federal prosecutors then indicted him for the same instance of possession under federal law. Gamble moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal indictment was for "the same offence" as the one at issue in his state conviction, thus exposing him to double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment. The District Court denied this motion, invoking the dual-sovereignty doctrine, according to which two offenses "are not the ‘same offence’ " for double jeopardy purposes if "prosecuted by different sovereigns," Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82, 92, 106 S.Ct. 433, 88 L.Ed.2d 387. Gamble pleaded guilty to the federal offense but appealed on double jeopardy grounds. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

Held : This Court declines to overturn the longstanding dual-sovereignty doctrine. Pp. 1964 - 1980.

(a) The dual-sovereignty doctrine is not an exception to the double jeopardy right but follows from the Fifth Amendment’s text. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects individuals from being "twice put in jeopardy" "for the same offence." As originally understood, an "offence" is defined by a law, and each law is defined by a sovereign. Thus, where there are two sovereigns, there are two laws and two "offences." Gamble attempts to show from the Clause’s drafting history that Congress must have intended to bar successive prosecutions regardless of the sovereign bringing the charge. But even if conjectures about subjective goals were allowed to inform this Court’s reading of the text, the Government’s contrary arguments on that score would prevail. Pp. 1964 - 1966.

(b) This Court’s cases reflect the sovereign-specific reading of the phrase "same offence." Three antebellum cases— Fox v. Ohio, 5 How. 410, 46 U.S. 410, 12 L.Ed. 213; United States v. Marigold, 9 How. 560, 50 U.S. 560, 13 L.Ed. 257; and Moore v. Illinois, 14 How. 13, 55 U.S. 13, 14 L.Ed. 306— laid the foundation that a crime against two sovereigns constitutes two offenses because each sovereign has an interest to vindicate. Seventy years later, that foundation was cemented in United States v. Lanza, 260 U.S. 377, 43 S.Ct. 141, 67 L.Ed. 314, which upheld a federal prosecution that followed one by a State. This Court applied that precedent for decades until 1959, when it refused two requests to reverse course, see Bartkus v. Illinois, 359 U.S. 121, 79 S.Ct. 676, 3 L.Ed.2d 684; Abbate v. United States, 359 U.S. 187, 79 S.Ct. 666, 3 L.Ed.2d 729, and it has reinforced that precedent over the following six decades, see, e.g.,

Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, 579 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1863, 195 L.Ed.2d 179. Pp. 1965 - 1969.

(c) Gamble claims that this Court’s precedent contradicts the common-law rights that the Double Jeopardy Clause was originally understood to engraft onto the Constitution, pointing to English and American cases and treatises. A departure from precedent, however, "demands special justification," Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203, 212, 104 S.Ct. 2305, 81 L.Ed.2d 164, and Gamble’s historical evidence is too feeble to break the chain of precedent linking dozens of cases over 170 years. This Court has previously concluded that the probative value of early English decisions on which Gamble relies was "dubious" due to "confused and inadequate reporting." Bartkus, 359 U.S. at 128, n. 9, 79 S.Ct. 676. On closer inspection, that assessment has proven accurate; the passing years have not made those early cases any clearer or more valuable. Nor do the treatises cited by Gamble come close to settling the historical question with enough force to meet his particular burden. His position is also not supported by state court cases, which are equivocal at best. Less useful still are the two federal cases cited by Gamble— Houston v. Moore, 5 Wheat. 1, 5 L.Ed. 19, which squares with the dual-sovereignty doctrine, and United States v. Furlong, 5 Wheat. 184, 5 L.Ed. 64, which actually supports it. Pp. 1969 - 1978.

(d) Gamble’s attempts to blunt the force of stare decisis here do not succeed. He contends that the recognition of the Double Jeopardy Clause’s incorporation against the States washed away any theoretical foundation for the dual-sovereignty rule. But this rule rests on the fact that only same-sovereign prosecutions can involve the "same offence," and that is just as true after incorporation as before. Gamble also argues that the proliferation of federal criminal laws has raised the risk of successive prosecutions under state and federal law for the same criminal conduct, thus compounding the harm inflicted by precedent. But this objection obviously assumes that precedent was erroneous from the start, so it is only as strong as the historical arguments found wanting. In any case, eliminating the dual-sovereignty rule would do little to trim the reach of federal criminal law or prevent many successive state and federal prosecutions for the same criminal conduct, see Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306. Pp. 1978 - 1980.

694 Fed.Appx. 750, affirmed.

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.J., and THOMAS, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., and GORSUCH, J., filed dissenting opinions.

[139 S.Ct. 1962] Jeffrey B. Wall, Acting Solicitor General, Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General, Eric J. Feigin, Jenny C. Ellickson, Assistants to the Solicitor General, Ross B. Goldman, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Barre C. Dumas, Mobile, AL, Robert N. Stander, Jones Day, Washington, DC, Louis A. Chaiten, Emmett E. Robinson, Jones Day, Cleveland, OH, Amanda K. Rice, Jones Day, Detroit, MI, for Petitioner.

Louis A. Chaiten, Cleveland, OH, for Petitioner.

Eric J. Feigin, Washington, DC, for Respondent.

Kyle D. Hawkins, Solicitor General, for Texas, et al. as amicus curiae, in support of affirmance.

OPINION

ALITO Justice.

[139 S.Ct. 1963] We consider in this case whether to overrule a longstanding interpretation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. That Clause provides that no person may be "twice put in jeopardy" "for [139 S.Ct. 1964] the same offence." Our double jeopardy case law is complex, but at its core, the Clause means that those acquitted or convicted of a particular "offence" cannot be tried a second time for the same "offence." But what does the Clause mean by an "offence"?

We have long held that a crime under one sovereign’s laws is not "the same offence" as a crime under the laws of another sovereign. Under this "dual-sovereignty" doctrine, a State may prosecute a defendant under state law even if the Federal Government has prosecuted him for the same conduct under a federal statute.

Or. the reverse may happen, as it did here. Terance Gamble, convicted by Alabama for possessing a firearm as a felon, now faces prosecution by the United States under its own felon-in-possession law. Attacking this second prosecution on double jeopardy grounds, Gamble asks us to overrule the dual-sovereignty doctrine. He contends that it departs from the founding-era understanding of the right enshrined by the Double Jeopardy Clause. But the historical evidence assembled by Gamble is feeble; pointing the other way are the Clause’s text, other historical evidence, and 170 years of precedent. Today we affirm that precedent, and with it the decision below.

I

In November 2015, a local police officer in Mobile, Alabama, pulled Gamble over for a damaged headlight. Smelling marijuana, the officer searched Gamble’s car, where he found a loaded 9-mm handgun. Since Gamble had been convicted of second-degree robbery, his possession of the handgun violated an Alabama law providing that no one convicted of "a crime of violence" "shall own a firearm or have one in his or her possession." Ala. Code § 13A-11-72(a) (2015); see § 13A-11-70(2) (defining "crime of violence" to include robbery). After Gamble pleaded guilty to this state offense, federal prosecutors indicted him for the same instance of possession under a federal law— one forbidding those convicted of "a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year ... to ship or transport in interstate or foreign commerce, or possess in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition." 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Gamble moved to dismiss on one ground: The federal indictment was for "the same offence" as the one at issue in his state conviction and thus exposed him to double jeopardy. But because...

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