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Grants: Search, Career Criminal, and the Infamous Israel Passport

By William Peacock, Esq. on April 22, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

More Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) cases? Say it ain't so, SCOTUS.

Alas, a criminal with a white supremacist career, and a lot of arms, just made his way to the High Court, along with another criminal case, which involves the police finding bliss (and a permissible search) in ignorance.

And then there is the small matter of World War III, or at least the over-hyped case involving a conflict of power between Congress and the Executive, Israel and Palestine, Jerusalem, and the label on a citizen's passport -- no big deal, right?

Nicholas Heien v. North Carolina

A car was pulled over for a brake light. Incessant questioning of the driver, and the car's owner, who was sleeping in the back seat, followed. Eventually, the car's owner consented to a search and a duffel bag full of cocaine was found. The trial court denied a suppression motion, and both a divided appellate panel and the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed.

The issue, per the cert. petition (via SCOTUSblog), appears to all trace back to the brake light. Only one of the car's brake lights was out, with the officer making a good faith mistake that the remaining lights were insufficient to comply with state law. Can the police officer's mistake of law provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop?

United States v. Samuel Johnson

A white supremacist had convictions for possessing sawed off shotgun, as well as simple robbery and attempted simple robbery convictions, reports Courthouse News Service. He faced gun charges again in 2012, and pled guilty, but objected to his classification as an armed career criminal, which, per the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.

According to the Supreme Court's website, the issue is whether mere possession of a short-barreled shotgun qualifies as a violent felony under the ACCA.

Menachem Zivotofsky v. Kerry, Secretary of State

And this, right here, is the big one, the Jerusalem case. As a matter of national foreign policy, the United States has refused to recognize Jerusalem as a part of Israel, Palestine, or any other nation, instead taking a "no comment" sort of stance on the matter. A law passed in 2002 by Congress states that  Jerusalem-born U.S. citizens can specify Israel as their birthplace.

Obviously, recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel would make a lot of people angry, as would taking a contrary stance, or any stance whatsoever. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have argued that the law is a constitutional overreach, and after the Supreme Court earlier ruled that the courts could hear the issue, the D.C. Circuit agreed with the executives' position, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Supreme Court will now take the case once again, this time making the ultimate decision over "whether the provision impermissibly infringes on the President's exercise of the recognition power reposing exclusively in him." Should the Court side with Congress, and passports implicitly recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, some are already saying that World War III could follow.

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