Supreme Court justices will return from their Thanksgiving holiday next week for a full plate when oral arguments are scheduled for cases involving government corruption, illegal border crossing and a Montana landowner blaming the federal government, among other things, for allowing someone on his shot cat.
Government corruption and former associates of Andrew Cuomo.
On Monday, the court will hear two Second Circuit appeals brought by criminal defendants who were once part of the former New York governor Andrew Cuomos inner circle.
Percoco versus the United States raises the question of whether private individuals – as opposed to pure government officials – can be criminally prosecuted for bribery under federal law.
Joseph Perko was a longtime advisor and campaign manager to ousted New York governor Andrew Cuomo. In 2018, Percoco was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison for accepting over $300,000 in bribes from private companies hoping to ingratiate themselves with Cuomo’s office. Percoco was released from prison four years early. He was found guilty of honest service fraud, conspiracy to commit honest service fraud, and soliciting bribes and gratuities.
In his appeal to SCOTUS, Percoco is challenging an honest services fraud conviction for accepting $35,000 from a real estate developer Steven Aiello to help bypass the local union. Percoco’s certiorari letter to SCOTUS neatly summarizes the question before the judges:
When an official accepts money to convince the government to do something, we call him a crook. But when a private person accepts money to convince the government to do something, we call him a lobbyist.
In the related case Ciminelli against United States, The judges will consider the appeal Andrew Ciminellithe owner of a construction company who was one of Steven Aiello’s co-defendants.
Ciminelli was involved in Cuomo’s 2012 “Buffalo Billion” plan to invest $1 billion in development projects in upstate New York. Ciminelli and others were convicted in 2017 for their role in a bid-fixing scheme to receive preferential treatment under Cuomo’s plan.
Ciminelli was sentenced to 28 months in prison but is now appealing to SCOTUS to challenge the interpretation of the federal wire fraud law under which he was convicted. Ciminelli lost his first appeal and is asking the judges to rule that the 2nd federal court wrongly analyzed the case under the so-called “right to control” theory of fraud.
Under the “right to control” theory, withholding information in an effort to influence an individual’s economic decisions is considered a form of property fraud. Attorneys for Ciminelli cite the SCOTUS ruling in the Bridgegate scandal, in which the judges said deliberately causing a deadlock on the George Washington Bridge as political payback is not a crime under federal wire fraud statutes.
Texas and Louisiana block Biden’s immigration plan.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will turn its attention to a national case in which Texas and Louisiana are challenging the president Joe Bidens immigration policy.
United States vs Texas A challenge to the Biden administration’s policy of prioritizing certain groups of unauthorized immigrants in arrest and detention.
The Supreme Court will again examine the extent of the Executive Branch’s powers to shape immigration policy. The Biden administration has implemented a policy that prioritizes certain groups of unauthorized immigrants in arrest and deportation. Minister of Internal Security in September 2021 Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memorandum detailing the administration’s priorities for immigration enforcement. Mayorkas said that because the Department of Homeland Security can’t deport all 11 million deportable people, it would give priority to suspected terrorists, people who have committed serious crimes and people arrested at the border.
Texas and Louisiana have sued to block the policy. A district judge sided with the states, and the Biden administration is now awaiting a decision from SCOTUS to determine whether to go ahead with its plan.
Montana landowners are suing the government for using their land.
Judges will hear arguments on Wednesday Wilkins versus the United States how they consider an argument an episode yellowstone: whether landowners in Montana have the right to sue the federal government for sealing off land from them with an improper easement.
Larry Steven “Wil” Wilkins (a veteran living with post-traumatic stress disorder) and his neighbor Jane Stanton (a widow who lives across Robbins Gulch Road from Wilkins) granted an easement to the US Forest Service in 1962 so the federal government could maintain a road across her land. All was well until 2006, when the forest service put up a sign saying “public access through private land.”
Since the sign was installed, Wilkins and Stanton said they “have had to deal with intruders on their private property, theft of their personal property, people shooting at their homes, people hunting both on and off the easel, and people traveling.” , deal with [sic] at a dangerous speed.” Once, in 2019, a traveler even shot and killed Wilkins’ cat on the road.
Now that the easement is being used more frequently, the land has eroded, causing sediment to build up on neighboring properties, which in turn has “resulted in leaching of those properties”. Meanwhile, plaintiffs say, the Forest Service has done less and less to maintain its easements. The landowners said they had asked the forest service for help several times, always refused.
Wilkins and Stanton eventually sued. However, the presiding court said their lawsuit had been filed after the 12-year limitation period had expired and was therefore too late.
The Federal Quiet Title Act grants litigants 12 years to enforce their claims, but the legal question before the judges focuses on the nature of that 12-year rule. If the statute of limitations in the Quiet Title Act is considered “judicial”, then the court has the power to hear the case and the landowners will lose. On the other hand, if the rule is viewed simply as a procedural “claims-handling rule,” Wilkins and Stanton can still prevail.
The landowners lost their appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but hope SCOTUS will interpret the law as other districts have — and allow their case against the federal government.
[Image via Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images]
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