Supreme Court Scrutinizes Federal Law

Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash

( – On Tuesday, the Supreme Court scrutinized the scope of the federal obstruction law which had been used against the Jan. 6 rioters. This could potentially be a sign that the Justices believe that the Department of Justice is reaching too far with the prosecution of the Capitol insurrection. 

Former Police Officer Joseph Fischer who has been accused of storming the Capitol on the day of the attack, is challenging the law, Section 1512(c)(2) which makes obstruction of an official proceeding a crime. The sentence currently carries a 20 years in prison maximum penalty. 

On Tuesday, Fischer who is Jeffrey Green’s representative, argued that the law had specifically been created to address the acts that were affecting the “integrity” and evidence availability. He pointed out that this would not include acts that would obstruct official proceedings without changing any of the evidence. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has disagreed with Fischer’s reading and has claimed that it imposed an “atextual limit” on what type of conduct would be included under the charge. The charge originated in 2002 and it was enforced after the Enron scandal when several energy companies top executives ended up being imprisoned for fraud or other charges. 

Following the Capitol attack, over 1,300 people have faced charges that are connected to their role during the attack. Around 353 of them specifically have been accused of obstructing the Congress’s official count of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6. Following election day, the vote certification is the last step to formalize the victor of the presidential election. 

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