Many individuals are closely following the 2024 presidential campaign, the legal proceedings involving former President Donald Trump concerning the events of January 6th, and the imminent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Trump’s request for immunity from prosecution for actions taken during his presidency.
More likely than the immunity issue to impact Special Counsel Jack Smith’s prosecution of Trump is a significant and long-standing case that is quietly developing in the Supreme Court.
The case of Joseph W. Fischer v. United States, which the court agreed to hear in December, does not explicitly mention Trump. But it revolves around Joe Fischer, a defendant charged on January 6th. The central issue is whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) and prosecutors have been misusing a law passed in 2002 to prosecute financial crimes. If the court rules in favor of Fischer, it could raise questions about the law’s relevance to other individuals linked to the events of January 6th, including Trump.
Smith’s indictment comprises four counts in total. These include two counts of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and one count of actual obstruction. The offenses fall under the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act, which was enacted in response to the Enron corporate accounting scandal.
The SOX Act classifies it as a felony to obstruct a U.S. government official proceeding and regulates financial disclosures. According to the statute, over 300 individuals have been charged with involvement in the January 6th insurrection, with more than 150 of them either pleading guilty or receiving jury verdicts of guilt.
A number of the defendants, including Fischer, have said that the “obstruction of an official proceeding” part of the SOX Act was only meant to apply to financial crimes like the ones that led to its creation, not as broadly as the Justice Department has used it in the January 6th cases, Politico noted.
The question of whether the obstruction provisions outlined in the SOX Act are applicable to the various methods individuals employed to hinder Congress’s investigation and approval of the presidential election results favored by Joe Biden is a matter that courts across the nation have been contemplating.
As of this month, the DOJ’s interpretation has garnered support from fourteen judges in twenty-two cases. However, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to review Fischer’s case, some have expressed reservations.
Moreover, trial judges have postponed the sentencing of defendants in two January 6th cases, anticipating the Supreme Court’s ruling, which could potentially open the door to challenges against the underlying SOX Act charges.
Should the Supreme Court choose to dismiss half of Smith’s charges against Trump before the conclusion of its term in June, it could potentially leave us uncertain about the impact of Fischer on the January 6 trial. Additionally, it may raise questions about the convictions of numerous individuals currently serving sentences for their involvement in the events of January 6th, the outlet noted.