A new Amici Curiae — friends of the court — brief has been filed in the case of Puerto Rico vs. Luis M. Sanchez Valle. A friend of the court brief is a a document filed in a court case without having been requested. That is, instead of either Puerto Rico or Sanchez Valle asking for the document, the people who prepared the document are sending it to the court because, as friends of the court, they think it will be useful.
The case of Puerto Rico vs. Sanchez Valle turns on the question of whether Puerto Rico is a separate “sovereign” from the United States. The Double Jeopardy rule says that people cannot be tried twice for the same crime. So a person who is tried for a robbery in the United States can’t be tried again for the same crime later in the U.S. If they made a round the world dash stealing fine art in five countries during one caper, as can happen in books and films if not often in real life, they could be tried for that crime in each country where they stole art, but not twice in the United States.
However, if there were a multi-state crime spree , the thief could be tried in the various States, and by the U.S., because States are considered separate “sovereigns” from the U.S. Puerto Rico, since it is not a State, isn’t covered by this. The question for the Sanchez Valle case is, since Puerto Rico is often treated like a State, should it have the same status as a separate sovereign that the States have?
The Luis Sanchez Valle case is, according to the Federalist Society, one of the most interesting cases coming up for the Supreme Court. They point out also that this will be the first Puerto Rico-related case to come before the court since Justice Sotomayor joined the Supreme Court.
In the case of this Amici Curiae, the friends of the court are “individuals who are currently serving or have served at the highest levels of Puerto Rico’s government, including two former Governors, three current or former Resident Commissioners, three former Senate Presidents, three former House Speakers, four former Attorneys General, and a former Puerto Rico appellate court judge.” These people, the brief explains, “have dealt firsthand with issues implicating the constitutional and political relationship between Puerto Rico and the federal government.”
The brief explains that the State-like powers of Puerto Rico are given to Puerto Rico by Congress. They are not evidence that Puerto Rico has sovereignty of its own. To understand the status of Puerto Rico completely, you’ll want to read the full brief. Click the link below to find the full text.