United States Supreme Court affirms on Sanchez Valle, declares Puerto Rick lacks distinct sovereignty

by Jun 9, 2016Courts0 comments

The Supreme Court of the United States released its opinion on Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, the case that examined whether Puerto Rico possessed distinct sovereignty from the federal government of the United States, in order for the double jeopardy clause to not apply in the territory. In a six to two decision, the court affirmed the ruling of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, holding that for purposes of the double jeopardy clause, Congress remains as the ultimate source of sovereignty in Puerto Rico, and as such, the clause protects from successive prosecution on behalf of federal and local authorities.

The opinion, while narrow in scope, is still fundamentally a blow to the government of the territory, and to the Popular Democratic Party, which argued Puerto Rico had attained sovereignty via the enactment of Public Law 600. In as much as the court recognized the impact of the enactment of Puerto Rico’s Constitution, and the existence of a pact by which Congress delegated its power over local affairs, it still found that for purposes of ultimate sovereignty, power lies in the US Capitol.

Comparing the sovereignty and powers of Puerto Rico, to those of a municipality in a state, the court has established once and for all that Congress retains the ultimate say when it comes to Puerto Rico, despite its Constitution.

Immediately, this means that the cases in Puerto Rico where the same charge was leveled against an individual in both federal and local courts, will have one charge dismissed. Politically speaking, it urges the PDP to either find another argument, or abandon its defense of the status quo of Puerto Rico as one that possesses sovereignty.

Stay tuned as we will release a more in depth analysis of the opinion.