Supreme Court case could upend DOJ's January 6th witch hunt

 March 26, 2024

The Supreme Court will soon take up the appeal of a man convicted over January 6th in a case that could upend the Justice Department's witch hunt against Donald Trump and his supporters.  

In Fischer v. United States, the court is being asked to weigh in on the scope of a federal obstruction statute that has been used to charge hundreds of January 6thers, and Trump himself.

Major J6 case heads to Supreme Court

The case is the latest sign of hope for many January 6th defendants whom Trump has labeled "hostages" of a tyrannical regime.

In a separate January 6th case this month, an appeals court ruled that some January 6th defendants convicted for obstruction of an official proceeding had their sentences improperly enhanced.

Until January 6th, no political protester had ever been charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The district judge in Fischer, Carl Nichols, ruled that the obstruction statute - which became law after the Enron scandal - was meant to be used for conduct like destroying evidence.

The appeals court reversed 2-1, even as Biden judge Florence Pan acknowledged the DOJ's use of the obstruction statute against January 6thers was without precedent.

Two Trump judges on the panel, Justin Walker and Gregory Katsas, expressed concern that applying the law too broadly would criminalize lawful protest.

Implications for free speech

So far, the D.C. courts have neglected to rule on how the key term "corruptly" should be understood in the statute.

How the Supreme Court settles the question could have major implications for Trump - who is accused of a criminal "coup" - and the First Amendment more broadly.

Many of the alleged "insurrectionists" charged with obstructing Congress were non-violent protesters who have been compared to tourists.

The obstruction statute is also the basis of half of Jack Smith's sweeping criminal case against Trump for "election interference."

That case is already facing significant delays as the Supreme Court grapples with Trump's immunity defense. Many are anticipating that Trump's appeal will push the case past the 2024 election. The Supreme Court shut down an effort to remove Trump from the ballot in a 9-0 decision this month that skirted a direct examination of the "insurrection" itself.

The court will hear oral arguments in Fischer on April 16.

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