[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; briefs] in two cases on Wednesday. In Flores-Figueroa v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether a federal "aggravated identity theft" statute [18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1)] applies only to individuals who knowingly use another person's identification documents. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld [opinion, PDF] Ignacio Flores-Figueroa's conviction for using counterfeit social security and resident alien cards. Flores renewed his argument before the Court on Wednesday, asserting that the statute is aimed at identity theft and not immigration issues:
In common usage to say that somebody knowingly transfers, possesses or uses something is to say that that person knows what it is that he is transferring, possessing or using….The same principle follows under the Federal aggravated identity theft statute, which calls for a two-year mandatory sentence…
The government countered that the prosecution need only show that the identification belonged to a real person, and that the defendant knowingly used the document:
I agree that a person who deliberately sets out to misappropriate the identity of a known individual is almost certainly more culpable than someone who does not do it but inadvertently does so.
But I don't think that is controlling in this case for a very important reason….[W]e are not having this conversation unless the defendant has already committed the predicate felony, and he is subject to punishment for that predicate felony.
In Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the state of Hawaii is precluded from transferring 1.2 million acres of land ceded by the former Hawaiian monarchy, pending a political settlement with Native Hawaiians [advocacy website]. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs(OHA) [official website] had won an injunction from the Hawaii Supreme Court [official website] barring the state from selling any ceded lands until claims to the land are settled. The state of Hawaii argues that the 1993 Apology Resolution [text] passed by Congress was not intended to limit the state's ability to manage its land:
A 1993 congressional apology resolution did not alter Hawaii's right to transfer its public lands or repeal, by implication, prior congressional enactments that it extinguish all competing claims to those lands. It was, as its sponsor said at the time, a simple apology, and no more.
OHA counters that the Hawaii Supreme Court properly acknowledged the State's fiduciary obligation under state law, and did not rely on the Apology Resolution:
I think that if one looks at the critical portion of the Hawaii Supreme Court's opinion on pages 31A to 32A, where the Hawaii Supreme Court actually discusses the relevance of the Apology Resolution, the Court makes clear that it is relying on it only for the acknowledgment that Native Hawaiians have unresolved claims.
The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown [historical timeline] in 1893, and the US annexed its territory five years later. Hawaii was admitted as a state in 1959.