February 12, 2020

Case Study – Gamble v. United States

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits more than one prosecution or punishment for the same offense. The Supreme Court has long made an exception, allowing prosecutions and punishments for the identical offense if the charges are brought by a state and the federal government.

In this case, defendant Terance Martez Gamble asks the Court to reverse his federal conviction for being a felon in possession of a weapon, the identical crime for which he was convicted and sentenced by an Alabama state court. He seeks to have the Supreme Court end the separate sovereigns exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause, so that a prosecution by any government would prohibit a later prosecution for the same offense.

Classroom Case Study

Each classroom case study provides:

  • background on the legal issues in the case;
  • facts of the case;
  • key legal definitions;
  • arguments for petitioner and respondent; and
  • focus questions for fostering classroom discussion

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The classroom case study was modified from PREVIEW of United States Supreme Court Cases. It can be used for teacher reference and provides a more detailed look at the case.

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Using Supreme Court Oral Arguments in the Classroom

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When should the Court break with long-standing precedent (stare decisis)?

Stare decisis is a doctrine of precedent under which it is necessary for a court to follow earlier judicial decisions when presented with the same legal issues. In Gamble v. United States, the Supreme Court is asked to consider if it should reverse a long history of Court precedent that allows for a separate sovereigns exception to the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy Clause. The separate sovereigns exception allows for both state and federal courts to prosecute a person for the same crime. In these clips the justices ask the attorney for the petitioner Terance Gamble why they should considering ignoring previous precedent in this case.

Audio Clip 1 - Justice Kagan to Mr. Chaiten, attorney for petitioner Terance Gamble

  • According to Justice Kagan, why might the Court might feel uncomfortable not following stare decisis in this case?
  • What issues might occur if the Court regularly ignored stare decisis?

Audio Clip 2 - Justice Gorsuch and Mr. Chaiten, attorney for petitioner Terance Gamble

Focus Question:

  • Are there times when it is appropriate for the Court to disregard stare decisis? If so, when?

What is the relationship between federalism, sovereignty, and individual liberty?

The United States has a federalist system of government in which the Constitution divides power between the federal government and the state governments. In the first clip below, Justice Kagan questions how getting rid of the separate sovereigns exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause affects the sovereignty of state or federal governments. In the later clips, Justices Ginsburg, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh question how a federalist argument could be used to justify the current practice of allowing for a separate sovereigns exception as it seems to undermine the purpose of federalism.

Audio Clip 3 - Justice Kagan to Mr. Chaiten, attorney for petitioner Terrance Gamble

  • According to Justice Kagan, how is the sovereignty of our government currently divided and what does this mean for double jeopardy?

Audio Clip 4 - Justice Ginsburg to Mr. Feigin, solicitor general for the United States

  • According to Justice Ginsburg, traditionally how is federalism thought to protect individual liberties?
  • What argument does Mr. Feigin make on the role of dual governments in a federalist system to protect citizens?

Audio Clip 5 - Justices Gorsuch, Ginsburg, and Mr. Feigin, solicitor general for the United States

  • Do you think Mr. Feigin makes an argument that individuals in a federal system can be dualy prosecuted by the state and federal government just as they are subject to state and federal taxes and regulations? Why or why not?

Audio Clip 6  - Justice Kavanaugh and Mr. Feigin, soliticor general for the United States.

  • What are the two liberty interests mentioned by Mr. Feigin?