The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to hear an appeal from indicted former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who has insisted his prosecution violates the constitutional separation of powers.
Still, a statement from Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggests that the question raised by Schock — whether the judicial branch should be allowed to interpret rules adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives — may not be fully resolved.
“Although this question does not arise frequently — presumably because criminal charges against Members of Congress are rare — the sensitive separation-of-powers questions that such prosecutions raise ought to be handled uniformly,” Sotomayor wrote as she concurred with the decision not to hear Schock’s case. “It is not clear, however, that this case cleanly presents the question whether such orders are, as a general matter, immediately appealable.”
That’s because the district court denied a motion to dismiss only provisionally, promising to revisit the matter “if at any time it becomes apparent that the prosecution will rely upon evidence that requires the interpretation of House rules,” she wrote.
Though the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the former congressman’s appeal last May, it basically told him to try again if he’s convicted. Similarly, Sotomayor wrote that, “Schock remains free to reassert his Rulemaking Clause challenge in the District Court should subsequent developments warrant.”
Schock attorney George J. Terwilliger III, in a statement, expressed gratitude “that a justice of the United States Supreme Court, looking at our case out of the hundreds that seek Supreme Court review, recognizes that the Schock case presents an important separation of powers issue that remains alive in the case.
“Whether prosecutors can so deeply intrude into the internal workings of the United States House of Representatives is a question yet to be answered in further court proceedings,” Terwilliger said.
Appellate Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote last May that Schock’s argument “does not represent established doctrine,” though. He compared the rules of Congress to the policies of Microsoft.
“Microsoft Corporation has the sole power to establish rules about how much its employees will be reimbursed for travel expenses, but no one thinks that this prevents a criminal prosecution of persons who submit fraudulent claims for reimbursement or fail to pay tax on the difference between their actual expenses and the amount they receive from Microsoft,” Easterbrook wrote.
Schock’s trial is set for June 10. The feds have accused him of using campaign and government funds for cars, mileage, reimbursements, interior decorating, a charter flight to a Bears game and sports tickets he sold for profit.
Schock is also accused of filing false income tax returns and covering up his spending trail and alleged fraud schemes with fake invoices and false statements.
He was the youngest member of the House when he arrived in 2009. He resigned under a cloud of suspicion on March 31, 2015.