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Straw Purchasers, Political Speech, and Argentina's Bad Day

By William Peacock, Esq. on June 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Now we're getting to the good stuff. Last week, we helped your insomnia by recapping the juice man's juiceless juice and incomprehensible cross-ideological splits -- not the sort of stuff that anyone but SCOTUS diehards can sit through without being rendered unconscious through boredom.

Fortunately, Monday has arrived, and with it, a questionable gun straw-purchaser holding, an opinion that will allow Ohio's terrible political speech restriction to be challenged, and maybe, just maybe, the collapse of a nation's economy thanks to SCOTUS and Wall Street vultures creditors.

Grant of the Day: Facebook Threats

Where is the line between an online rant and a "true threat" worthy of criminal punishment? Anthony Elonis' Facebook rants discussed murdering his wife, putting her head on a stick, shooting up an elementary school, blowing stuff up, and ya know, the typical fare of a lunatic. He was convicted on four of five counts of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c), which prohibits the use of interstate communications of threats to harm individuals.

FindLaw's Gabriella Khorasanee covered the Third Circuit's opinion last September, along with the circuit split over whether the true threats exception to First Amendment speech protection requires an objective or subjective intent to threat.

Abramski v. United States: 'Straw Purchase' for Uncle is Illegal

In a 5-4 split, the Supreme Court held that a man who purchased a firearm with his uncle's money, intending to transfer it to his uncle, was indeed a straw purchaser and could be convicted under 18 U. S. C. §922(a)(6), which prohibits lying on federal gun paperwork. The majority emphasized the need for effective background checks and the ability to trace guns, while Scalia, writing for the dissent, rejected this "purpose-driven" approach in favor of a reading of the text of the statute.

Curiously, the majority opinion and the BATF's concessions set up an odd rule: You can't "straw purchase" for a relative if you never intend on owning the gun personally, but you can:

  • Buy guns as gifts, even if you never intend to "own" the weapon personally;
  • Buy guns for raffles, even if you never intend to "own" the weapon personally;
  • Buy guns for resale, even if you never intend to "own" the weapon personally.

That last one is especially curious, considering the transfer to Bruce Abramski's uncle was done legally. Had Abramski brought it, then sold it to his uncle, he'd be OK, but since he got the money in advance, he's a felon. All that, because his uncle wanted to use Abramski's law enforcement discount.

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus: Standing to Challenge False Political Speech Law

Ohio makes it a crime to make false statements in an election campaign. The Susan B. Anthony List has previously been investigated for violating the law and could theoretically be probed or prosecuted again. The threat of future action is silencing their speech, the appellants argue.

A unanimous Supreme Court, reversing the Sixth Circuit, held that the credible threat of prosecution suffices for standing.

Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital: Creditors Can Track Argentina's Assets

Argentina defaulted on a massive amount of bonds in 2001. It later restructured most of that debt by issuing new bonds, but some Wall Street investors, who bought the junk bonds for pennies on the dollar, have refused to take far less than face value. Argentina has had little luck fighting these investors' collection efforts to date, and today, it got worse.

The country's plea to block discovery of its non-U.S. assets failed, as a 7-1 majority of the Court held the plain text of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, 28 U. S. C. §1330, only exempts "property in the United States of a foreign state," not property outside the U.S. of a foreign state.

Denial of the Day: Argentina Can't Refuse to Pay

The pain didn't stop there, either. The Court also refused to hear appeals from Argentina regarding treatment of the uncompromising investors' bonds. Lower courts have held that Argentina is bound by its own promises to treat the investors' bonds equally to the later-issued bonds from when the country restructured its debt. There is some question over whether, in light of the equal payment holdings, Argentina will be able to avoid another default.

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