Supreme Court Kicks Capitol Riot Case Down The Road

The Supreme Court’s December 13 decision to examine the obstruction law used to prosecute hundreds of January 6 defendants is already being invoked in current federal court proceedings and by those who have already been convicted for their role in the Capitol riot, CBS News reported.

In a December 15 hearing, US District Judge Beryl Howell said that she had heard from other federal district court judges in Washington that they had received requests from January 6 defendants who have either been charged with or pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding who are now asking for a pause in their cases until after the Supreme Court makes its decision on whether the statute applies to conduct during the Capitol riot.

Howell said in the hearing that the requests for delays are not “unreasonable” and suggested that the federal prosecutor in the case narrow a plea offer involving the statute to focus on a different charge to avoid such a delay.

She warned that judges overseeing January 6 cases could face scheduling backlogs due to the Supreme Court’s review.

The Supreme Court has yet to schedule oral arguments in the case that challenges the Justice Department’s use of the statute. It is expected that the Court will schedule arguments for the spring with its ruling coming by the end of June.

The case arose from three separate January 6 prosecutions in Washington in which the three defendants, Joseph Fischer, Edward Lang, and Garrett Miller, were charged with obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding.

A 3-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia maintained that the statute applied to “all forms of corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding.” The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court.

So far, the Department of Justice has charged more than 320 defendants with obstructing an official proceeding, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Over 50 defendants have pleaded guilty to the charge.