Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Supreme Court Appears Divided about Law Used to Jail Rioters

Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have been convicted of corruptly obstructing an official proceeding, in this case the counting of the electoral votes. But what does that really mean? The law specifically states that destroying or mutilating an official document is covered, but does showing up and running rampant through the Capitol also count? That is what the Supreme Court will have to decide. This is the first case the Court has had dealing with the fallout of the attempted coup.

On Tuesday, the Court held oral arguments on a case in which the petitioner claimed that he didn't "obstruct" an official proceeding. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued: "The fundamental wrong committed by many of the rioters, including petitioner, was a deliberate attempt to stop the joint session of Congress from certifying the results of the election. That is, they obstructed Congress' work in that official proceeding." Justice Elena Kagan seemed to agree, but several of the conservative justices were concerned that the law is too broad and could be used against people engaging in a peaceful sit-in demonstration. Justice Neil Gorsuch asked about Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who pulled a fire alarm to force the Capitol to be evacuated last year. Did Bowman obstruct an official proceeding (Congress' voting on a bill)? Even Justice Samuel Alito agreed that what happened on Jan. 6 was serious, but he is concerned with how far the statute reaches.

The case is being closely watched, not only because if the law is overturned, many of the rioters could be set free, but because two of the charges against Donald Trump in the D.C. case are also about obstructing an official proceeding. If the law is thrown out as too broad, those charges will have to be dropped. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates