Durt Fibo

June 28, 2024

     Today’s Supreme Court decision reducing the area of the ‘obstruction statute’ was a response to a Jan. 6 rioter who claimed the existing federal law was inapplicable to his case (or that of other such rioters –or Donald Trump in his upcoming trials). The specific challenge was to U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), which outlaws [“Whoever corruptly”] “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.”

     Six of the Ayatollahs –Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and even Jackson- voted for the convicted rioter – Joseph Fischer. Their reasons ignored the actual law and instead extracted an exculpation by ruling on a completely different clause than the one which was being challenged.

     Capriciously, they decided the case hinged on U.S.C. § 1512(c)(1) [NOT 2-D.F.], which, when written in response to Eron’s 2001 shredding of documents states: [“Whoever corruptly”] “alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding.” Enshrining that misdirection in his majority decision, Roberts wrote how it would be “peculiar” to find that, in Congress’s efforts to close the Enron gap, it “hid away … a catchall provision.”

     Joined by Kagan and Sotomayor, Justice Coney Island Barrett dissented, writing: “Joseph Fischer allegedly participated in a riot at the Capitol that forced the delay of Congress’s joint session on January 6,” Barrett wrote. “Blocking an official proceeding from moving forward surely qualifies as obstructing or impeding the proceeding by means other than document destruction. Fischer’s alleged conduct thus falls within (c)(2)’s scope.”  And:  “Given these premises, the case that Fischer can be tried for ‘obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding’ seems open and shut. So why does the Court hold otherwise?”

     Justice Jackson issued a separate opinion which, while siding with the majority, indicated that it is possible for Fischer and other defendants to still be prosecuted under the charge, by hedging: “That issue remains available for the lower courts to determine on remand.”