Attorney General Ken Paxton today led a bipartisan coalition of 36 states in a friend-of-the-court brief, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its long-standing view on states’ rights to prosecute criminals.
In multiple cases dating back almost two centuries, the high court has ruled that being prosecuted twice – once by a state and again in federal court – does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy because the states and the federal government are separate sovereigns with distinct and unique interests. Lawyers for an Alabama man are asking the Supreme Court to overturn its earlier decisions.
“For nearly two centuries it’s been understood that if someone violates state and federal law, both governments can prosecute, but this case threatens to take away states’ sovereignty,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The U.S. Supreme Court should reaffirm that when a defendant in a single criminal act breaks both a federal and state law, it amounts to two distinct offenses and can result in two separate prosecutions. To rule otherwise would kick off a race to the courthouse between multiple sovereigns eager to vindicate their own criminal laws.”
In one of its previous rulings on the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that outlawing states from prosecuting someone already tried in federal court “would be a shocking and untoward deprivation of the historic right and obligation of the states to maintain peace and order within their confines.”
Texas is joined on the friend-of-the-court brief by 35 other states – including the 15 most populous states. Collectively, these states represent over 86% of the U.S. population. Their leaders span the political spectrum. They are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
View a copy of the brief here: