Wire Act Appeal Outcome May Be Clouded by Judge’s Death
The federal Wire Act appeal process could get very complicated in the upcoming weeks as one of its judges has now passed. According to reports, federal judge Juan R. Torruella passed away last week at 87. This passing could change the path of the appeal and could drag this process out for several more months.
Appeals Judge Torruella Passes
According to reports, federal judge Juan R. Torruella passed away last week at his home in Puerto Rico. The 87-year-old judge was on the three-judge panel that was hearing the appeal of New Hampshire Lottery Commission v. Barr at the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal was heard back in June and the judges have been working on their decision since that time.
Initially, it was believed that the case would take approximately six months to decide. This would put the decision sometime later this month. Now that Judge Torruella has passed, this could make things very dicey for the potential upcoming verdict.
The Ways the Verdict Can Play Out
It is not uncommon for a judge to die in the middle of a trial. Since most federal judges have lifetime appointments, some will work up until the time of their death. When this happens, how the case proceeds depends on various factors. Let’s look at what can happen in this case.
The best-case scenario is that Judge Torruella has already made his decision and filed his opinion. If this is the case, the court can count his verdict posthumously. If this is the case, the decision will proceed as it would have normally. However, it is important to note that this verdict must have been made and filed before his death. If it is not, then it may be ruled invalid.
Next, if Judge Torruella’s decision hadn’t been finalized, then it will fall to the two remaining judges to decide the case. In this case, either party can still win if the judges vote the same way. For example, if they both vote in favor of New Hampshire, then the lower court ruling stands.
The worst-case scenario will occur if the judges are opposing. This will result in a 1-1 tie, and if this happens, the case will have to be retried. If that happens, a new judge will be appointed and the case heard again. Should this be the case, it could be the middle of next year or later before this case is decided.
Some feel that the decision, in this case, has already been made and the court is simply waiting for the US Presidential election to conclude before making a ruling. The election is important in the future of the Wire Act.
How Things May Proceed From Here
If a verdict is finalized, the winner of this week’s election will determine the future of the Wire Act. If Donald Trump wins re-election and New Hampshire wins the case, expect the DOJ to try and appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Should Joe Biden take the presidency, then the outcome of this verdict may not matter. Biden has gone on record stating that he sides with the lower courts when they say that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting. If Biden wins, it won’t matter if the DOJ wins. It is possible that a Biden administration will even overturn the memo that started this mess. However, that is not guaranteed.
The best-case scenario for the government is a Trump victory and a ruling in their favor by the appellate court. However, many feel that this is unlikely. We expect to hear more about this matter in the next couple of weeks.