The U.S. Supreme Court is set to address a pivotal case involving a federal obstruction law. The outcome could potentially impact numerous January 6 cases and directly affect Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against former President Donald Trump.
The case revolves around a particular section of 18 U.S. Code 1512, an obstruction law, which stipulates, “whoever corruptly otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
The court is set to consider the application of this provision by the Biden Department of Justice, potentially in connection with the broader statute, in prosecuting the January 6 defendants.
According to Tom Caso, Senior Legal Fellow at the Claremont Institute, the government’s utilization of the provision in this manner is mostly without precedent.
Caso said, “The amazing thing is if you look at the way the government is portraying the statute, you kind of wonder why it hasn’t been applied before. I think about all of the antics of the protesters at Supreme Court nomination approvals before Congress — you know, the Code Pink folks and whoever else stands up and shouts during that testimony. Why have they never been prosecuted under this statute? They are obviously trying to impede an official proceeding.”
He continued, “It’s kind of strange that the statute is only now been discovered,” he said. “It’s been on the books for quite some time. It was part of the Dodd-Frank legislation and it’s never been applied in this particular manner before.”
The Department of Justice has employed the obstruction law against over 300 January 6 defendants, carrying a significant penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Notably, this charge is part of the legal proceedings President Trump is set to face in a trial scheduled for March.
Should the Supreme Court concur that the DOJ has misapplied the law, essentially aligning with the defendants, J6 defense attorney Kira Anne West suggests the ruling could reverse a significant number of cases. Furthermore, he says it might result in adjustments to the sentences of individuals who have already been convicted.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear an appeal from a man charged in relation to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a case that could have significant implications for the prosecution of Donald Trump. https://t.co/C9vOQLX5LQ
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) December 13, 2023
A decision of this nature could potentially impede Smith’s prosecution of Trump. Notably, Smith aims to try the former president before the 2024 election, while Trump is seeking to delay the trial.
Caso says the Supreme Court’s stance on the matter remains uncertain. He noted that the Court typically doesn’t interpret a minor provision to completely nullify the rest of a statute’s language. However, on the flip side, the court could isolate the provision and support the government’s position.