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Noah Feldman

A Constitutional Diss for Puerto Rico

States can prosecute the same offense as the federal government. Now the island can't.
Not so sovereign.

Not so sovereign.

Photographer: ERIKA P. RODRIGUEZ/Bloomberg

Who’s the sovereign in Puerto Rico? That question sounds philosophical, or maybe political, not legal. But the Supreme Court has decided it nonetheless.

In a 6-to-2 decision, the court held that the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the federal government can’t both prosecute the same offense without violating the Constitutional ban against double jeopardy. That's because Puerto Rico, despite having its own constitution, isn’t a separate sovereign.