Monday, June 03, 2019

U.S. v. Knotek (9th Cir. - June 3, 2019)

A lot of Ninth Circuit opinions involve kicking out non-citizens from the country.  Today's opinion, by contrast, involves kicking out a citizen; in particular, sending him over to the Czech Republic to be incarcerated.  Different from the usual fare.

It's an extradition opinion.  The relevant treaty -- like many of them -- says that the respective countries aren't required to extradite their own citizens.  But a fairly recent federal statute says that the President is authorized to send U.S. citizens away if s/he wants.  Does that work?

The Ninth Circuit -- like virtually all courts -- says "Yes."  Which is not surprising.  It's a pretty straightforward interpretation of the relevant textual provisions.

The complexity is an old Supreme Court opinion that held that an extradition treaty (like the one at issue here) that says that you're not required to extradite your own citizens doesn't itself authorize such extradition; that there needs to be something else.  Hence the issue.  The petitioner here says that the U.S. authorizing statute -- which post-dated both the treaty as well as the Supreme Court's holding -- is unconstitutional, since it wasn't approved by the Senate in the manner required by a treaty.  Not a frivolous argument.  But one that the majority, like most courts, rejects.

So the 62-year old U.S. citizen here gets sent to the Czech Republic to serve a four-year sentence for a not extraordinarily serious property crime (attempted economic extortion).  Which isn't awesome.  Though if you don't want to serve time in a Czech prison, maybe don't go to that country and commit a crime there.