October 1st and the Supreme Court just granted hearing in several cases. Of note, to this humble island attorney, is the case of Puerto Rico v. Valle. Those pesky Insular Cases....(my posts here and here).
This case arises from a criminal prosecution in Puerto Rico. A criminal defendant was convicted of federal crimes in federal court, but then subsequently tried and convicted of violations of Puerto Rico law. He challenged the second conviction on Double Jeopardy grounds. The Double Jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution provides: Nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. Amend. V. This provision does not protect criminal offenders who are charged for the same conduct by different sovereigns. Consider a bank robber: bank robbery is a federal crime (18 U.S.C. 2113) and armed robbery is a state crime. Because a State and the Federal Government are separate sovereigns, no double jeopardy violation.
So, from a Constitutional perspective, is Puerto Rico the same sovereign as the federal government OR, as the Question Presented asks: Whether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Federal Government are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution.
Puerto Rico says: No. It has a Congressionally approved organic act and constitution which gave the people's sovereign power to the Puerto Rico government, which in turn, passed the criminal code.
Mr. Valle says: Yes. Under the Constitution, there are only two sovereigns: states and the federal government and Puerto Rico is not a state.
SCOTUSBLOG has the cert briefs here. When the merits briefs are available, we will post them here.
This blogger's answer? Stay tuned.