News Roundup

Yale Law School graduate and Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhodes was convicted this week of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6 storming of the United States Capitol. Reuters reports here that one of Rhodes’s codefendants was convicted of the same charge, while others were acquitted of that offense but convicted of obstructing an official proceeding. Both crimes carry statutory maximum penalties of up to 20 years in prison, but it remains to be seen what punishment the federal sentencing guidelines will recommend. Trials against additional Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are scheduled to begin soon. Keep reading for more news.

Effort to infiltrate the Supreme Court. The New York Times podcast The Daily has an episode here entitled A Secret Campaign to Influence the Supreme Court. It reports on a long-running effort by a minister named Rob Schenck to recruit prominent conservative couples, encourage them to befriend conservative Supreme Court justices and their spouses, and radicalize the justices, all in the interest of promoting a pro-life agenda. Rev. Schenck has switched sides and is now a pro-choice progressive minister who has decided to disclose his past sneaky behavior to the Times. He claims that the peak achievement of his effort was learning the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case before the decision was released, though both the justice he claims leaked the information and the woman who he claims received the leak deny that it took place. All in all, an interesting listen.

Speaking of podcasts . . . The latest edition of Phil Dixon’s podcast The NC Criminal Debrief is now available here. It covers recent cases and other news, including “911 call analysis, forfeiture of counsel, obstruction of justice, reinstatement of charges dismissed with leave, and cannabis.”

Prosecutorial review of prior extreme sentences. The Marshall Project has an interesting piece here about laws in several states that allow prosecutors to review prior sentences that they view as extreme and ask courts to reduce them. Apparently, California, Louisiana, Washington, Illinois and Oregon have such laws. Perhaps predictably, they appear to be used mainly by progressive prosecutors in big cities, but the article notes that more traditional or conservative prosecutors in some places have also invoked the laws. Others oppose them, either on principle or due to a lack of resources to conduct meaningful reviews of old cases.

Supreme Court hears arguments in immigration case that may implicate prosecutorial discretion. A case that’s on my radar screen was argued this week. The case is United States v. Texas, and the issue is basically whether the Biden Administration may direct immigration authorities to focus immigration enforcement efforts on undocumented immigrants that have committed non-immigration crimes or otherwise pose a heightened risk. The Administration says it can because there is no way to detain all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and it should be able to exercise something akin to prosecutorial discretion in prioritizing which immigrants to pursue. The State of Texas says it cannot, because the immigration statues say that unlawful immigrants “shall” be detained, which Texas contends means that there is no discretion to exempt anyone from enforcement efforts. There are standing issues and other procedural wrinkles in the case but the eventual opinion may bear on the topic of prosecutorial discretion. Specifically, it may shed some light on controversial questions like whether a prosecutor may properly decide not to prosecute certain offenses categorically, such as misdemeanor marijuana possession or certain minor traffic offenses. SCOTUSblog has a review of the argument here.

Apparent murder of NC woman investigated as a “femicide” in Mexico. WRAL has this story about the tragic death of Shanquella Robinson, a 25 year old student at Winston-Salem State University. Ms. Robinson appears to have been murdered while on vacation in Mexico. Mexican authorities have identified a friend of hers as a suspect and are seeking to extradite the friend from the United States. The focus of the article is on the fact that Mexico, along with more than a dozen other countries, defines “femicide,” or the murder of a woman, as a different or additional offense compared to homicide. The idea seems to be to respond specifically to high levels of gender-based violence, though the problem of criminal impunity in Mexico means that an estimated 95% of femicide perpetrators are never brought to justice.

Changes to the waiver lists. Finally, it is that exciting time of year when the Administrative Office of the Courts releases changes to the “waiver lists,” which set forth the offenses for which court appearance may be waived and the offenses for which appearance is mandatory, all as determined by the Chief District Court Judges. The updated lists are effective December 1 and are available here. As a bit of a spoiler, there were no changes to the traffic lists, but many of the other lists (ABC offenses, hunting and fishing offenses, and so on) did see revisions.

Have a great weekend and we will see you next week.