Explaining Denezpi v. United States
Blame Scott Greenfield for this one, folks.
Over at Hellbirdsite, noted legal blogger Scott Greenfield bemoaned that no one was talking about Justice Barrett’s opinion in Denezpi v. United States, handed down on Monday. Because I’m stuck quarantined at home, I bravely volunteered. So this is really his fault.
This case involves the application of the “dual sovereigns” doctrine, or the BS rule that both the feds and state authorities get to prosecute you for the same crime because they are really different governments. We have been hopeful that this rule would be limited by a supposedly anti-government Supreme Court, but apparently their distaste for government meddling has a limit.
The question presented is whether Merle Denezpi, a member of the Navajo Nation, could be prosecuted both for violations of the Ute Mountain Reservation penal code and the United States criminal code, even though both prosecutions would be in federal court. Justice May-the-Lord-Open Barrett, writing for a majority that includes the Chief, Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Breyer (retire, old man!), finds that the government absolutely can fuck you over twice if they feel like it, rules and precedent be damned. Gorsuch, finding himself backed by Kagan and Sotomayor, dissented.
Let’s break it down.