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Double Jeopardy and Multiple Sovereigns: A Jurisdictional Theory


Anthony J. Colangelo


Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law

April 15, 2008

Washington University Law Review, Vol. 86, No. 4, 2009
SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 00-19

Abstract:     
This Article offers a coherent way of thinking about double jeopardy rules among sovereigns. Its theory has strong explanatory power for current double jeopardy law and practice in both U.S. federal and international legal systems, recommends adjustments to double jeopardy doctrine in both systems, and sharpens normative assessment of that doctrine.

The Article develops a jurisdictional theory of double jeopardy under which sovereignty signifies independent jurisdiction to make and apply law. Using this theory, the Article recasts the history of the U.S. Supreme Court's dual sovereignty doctrine entirely in terms of jurisdiction, penetrating the opacity of the term sovereign as it is often deployed by the Court and supplying a useful analytical predictor for future extension of the doctrine. The Article then applies the theory to the international legal system to explain the confused and seemingly dissonant body of modern international law and practice on double jeopardy, including the international law of human rights and extradition, international criminal tribunal statutes, and the exercise of universal jurisdiction.

The Article next explores the theory's implications for U.S and international law in light of two main double jeopardy concerns: the individual right to be free from multiple prosecutions and the sovereign ability to enforce law. It argues that since the U.S. dual sovereignty doctrine originally derived and continues to derive justification from the sovereign's jurisdiction over the defendant, the Court's present analysis is incomplete and betrays the doctrine's own foundations by ignoring a basic, and necessary, constitutional inquiry: whether a successively prosecuting sovereign's exercise of jurisdiction satisfies due process. This inquiry would enrich present doctrine by incorporating individual rights concerns - concerns that now are completely absent from dual sovereignty analysis - and holds the potential to alter outcomes, especially in the contexts of successive prosecutions between U.S. states and by the federal government when it exercises jurisdiction extraterritorially. The theory similarly enriches international doctrine through a reasonableness evaluation of a successively prosecuting nation-state's jurisdiction that resembles U.S. due process tests. Finally, the Article suggests that where multiple sovereigns legitimately may exercise jurisdiction it does not mean that they will; institutionalized comity mechanisms between enforcement authorities of different sovereigns can accommodate both the sovereign interest to enforce law and the individual interest to be free from multiple prosecutions by encouraging the representation of multiple sovereigns' interests in a single prosecution in a single forum.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 89

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Date posted: April 18, 2008 ; Last revised: June 2, 2009

Suggested Citation

Colangelo, Anthony J., Double Jeopardy and Multiple Sovereigns: A Jurisdictional Theory (April 15, 2008). Washington University Law Review, Vol. 86, No. 4, 2009; SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 00-19. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1121906

Contact Information

Anthony J. Colangelo (Contact Author)
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States
2147682372 (Phone)
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