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Supreme Court rules people convicted of foreign crimes can still own gun in US

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court ruled 5-3 Tuesday in Small v. US [case backgrounder from Duke Law] that people convicted of a crime in a foreign country may own a gun in the US. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said that applying 18 U.S.C. 922, which makes it a crime for ex-convicts to possess a gun, to foreign convictions would be unfair to defendants because international courts often have fewer procedural protections. Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting, wrote that the phrase "any court" in the statute should be given a literal meaning, and apply to all courts both foreign and domestic. The Bush administration had asked the court to apply the statute to foreign convictions. Chief Justice William Rehnquist did not take part in the decision, which was heard while he was recovering from treatment for thyroid cancer. Read the Court's full opinion and the dissent by Justice Thomas [Cornell LII].

The Court also ruled 5-4 Tuesday that Americans can be prosecuted under US wire fraud law for scheming to evade foreign taxes, in a case about liquor smuggled from the United States into Canada. Justice Thomas, writing for the majority in Pasquantino v. US [case backgrounder from Duke Law] said that although it "may seem an odd use of the federal government's resources to prosecute a U.S. citizen for smuggling cheap liquor into Canada," the Wire Fraud Act applied, based on phone calls between the US and Canada which occurred. "No canon of statutory construction permits us to read the statute more narrowly," concluded Justice Thomas. Read the Court's full opinion, and the dissent by Justice Ginsburg [Cornell LII].

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