Supreme Court to hear case that could impact hundreds of January 6 charges

December 13, 2023

The Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to hear a case surrounding three defendants accused of obstruction of an official proceeding related to the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

The Justices’ ultimate decision in the case could upend hundreds of charges stemming from the January 6 riot—including charges against former President Trump.

The Court agreed to review an April ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Siding with the Justice Department, appellate court Florence Pan ruled that a lower court judge—U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols—was wrong in dismissing the charge in the three cases after having concluded obstruction of an official proceeding didn’t cover the defendants’ conduct.

The Department of Justice has argued that punishing anyone who “corruptly” obstructs or impedes an “official proceeding” clearly fits the conduct of the January 6 rioters who halted Congress’ in its Constitutional duty to certify President Biden’s 2020 election victory. 

Judge Nichols had found that the DOJ had stretched beyond the scope of the law to inappropriately apply it in the three cases in question; Judge Pan overruled Judge Nichols. 

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in March or April with a decision expected by early summer. The Justices’ timetable could threaten the March 4 trial date that U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has set in Trump’s 2020 election interference case.  

Trump has pleaded not guilty to four criminal counts surrounding attempts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, including conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding as well as obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.  Trump has also been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, and conspiracy against rights in the federal case.

Obstruction of an official proceeding carries up to 20 years in prison. It’s among the most widely-used felony charges in January 6 prosecutions, and dozens of people have already pleaded guilty to the charge or been convicted at trial.

At least 1,125 people have been charged with various offenses related to the January 6 assault. A reported more than 500 of them have been sentenced.

Four people died during the insurrection, and five police officers died of various causes following the attack.

PHOTO: January 6 insurrection at U.S. Capitol

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