Thursday, March 27, 2008

Supreme Court Considers Customs Declarations

It is pretty rare for customs-related issues to come before the Supreme Court. The last cases to do so dealt with fundamental questions of administrative law and the degree to which the Courts had to defer to Customs' legal interpretations. Those cases were Haggar in 2000 and Meade in 2001. Consequently, I'll always take note when something involving customs gets to the Supreme Court.

That happened this week, although in the context of a terrorism case. The case involves the 1999 plot to attack LAX airport. You may remember that the would-be terrorist was stopped by the then Customs Service (now Customs and Border Protection) when he drove in from Canada in a car full of explosives. One charge against the defendant was carrying an explosive in the commission of a felony. The underlying felony in this case was lying to Customs when making the customs declaration at the time of entry. [Side note: keep that in mind the next time you load up on jewelry or watches while on a foreign trip.] The lower court threw out the charge because there was no link between the explosives and the false declaration. Apparently, Customs did not specifically ask "Are you carrying any explosives." The question for the Court is whether the statute requires a link between the felony and the explosives. I'm not sure how it will come out and I try not to prognosticate on what are essentially criminal law matters.

The reason this got into the papers (see NYT article) is that the government was represented by Attorney General Mukasey. This restores a tradition of having the AG argue at least one case before the Supreme Court.

Another interesting NYT article has nothing to do with CBP, but I pass it on anyway. It seems that before Edison invented the phonograph, a Frenchman invented a similar device only with the intention of graphically recording sounds as images on paper. Apparently, he figured someone might be able to reproduce the sound at some point in the future. Well, someone has. A group of audio engineers have reconstructed the sounds from the paper records making those papers now the oldest known recorded sounds. You can listen to an excerpt at the link. Pretty cool.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How did the justices rule? Thanks!