Patterson v. Wagner

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 05-04-2015
  • Case #: 13-56080
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judge Bybee and District Judge Ezra
  • Full Text Opinion

International treaties with permissive language do not mandate a court to block extradition.

In a South Korean court, Arthur Patterson was convicted of destroying evidence related to a murder. Patterson served his time in South Korea, and moved to the United States. The South Korean government later wished to prosecute Patterson for the murder itself. South Korea obtained a warrant for Patterson’s arrest in 2009, and in 2011, the United States government did the same, seeking Patterson’s extradition to South Korea. Patterson argued that the extradition violated two international agreements barring extradition to South Korea. A magistrate judge certified Patterson for extradition, and denied his writ for habeas corpus. On appeal, Patterson claimed his extradition violated Article 6 of the extradition treaty between the United States and South Korea. Article 6 states that “if a person cannot be prosecuted for a crime in the United States because the relevant statute of limitation has expired, extradition to South Korea for that crime ‘may be denied.’” Patterson argued that “may be denied” was intended to be mandatory, and not permissive. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the evidence was unclear, and that the natural reading of the language was permissive to deny extradition when prosecution would be untimely. Patterson also argued that his extradition violated the double-jeopardy provision of the Status of Forces Agreement (“SOFA”). Patterson believed that rights given by SOFA should be enforced by the judiciary to block extradition. The panel concluded that even if the double jeopardy provision in SOFA forbids prosecution, it could not be enforced through blocking an extradition. Thus, even though SOFA establishes individual rights, the panel concluded that they are not judicially enforceable. The panel noted that its decision does not forbid Patterson from seeking relief from the Secretary of State. AFFIRMED.

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