Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein takes on some added responsibility on Monday, on top of overseeing the special counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, by representing the Trump administration before the Supreme Court, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
Although it is the solicitor general’s office that oversees the government’s Supreme Court docket, top officials from the Justice Department do occasionally argue cases before the high court.
For Rosenstein, this will be his first appearance before the Supreme Court.
He said that despite his managerial responsibilities over thousands of Justice Department employees, he considers himself a practicing lawyer first, and last year asked Solicitor General Noel Francisco to give him a criminal case to argue.
The case stems from a 2012 drug bust in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The defendant, Adaucto Chavez-Meza, was sentenced in 2013 to 11 years, three months imprisonment, the minimum under federal guidelines, after he plead guilty to selling several pounds of methamphetamine to an undercover agent.
The following year, however, the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed its guidelines to lower the penalties for that offense, and Chavez-Meza asked the judge to reduce his sentence.
The judge did cut the sentence but only by 21 months and, without explaining why, not 27 months to match the new minimum sentence.
Chavez-Meza argued that the judge should have provided an explanation, so that an appellate court would have something to evaluate when reviewing the ruling.
The appellate court in Denver, however, said such an explanation is not required. Other federal appeals courts have disagreed, and the Supreme Court decided to resolve the difference.
Prior to taking on his current position, Rosenstein was chief federal prosecutor in Maryland for 12 years, making him a natural candidate to argue an appeal concerning retroactive sentencing reductions, according to The Daily Caller.
Although the case is considered relatively minor as far as Supreme Court cases go, Rosenstein has been preparing for it if it were a landmark by studying a large number of briefs and precedents, conducting two moot courts before Justice Department attorneys and preparing at night and on weekends, according to the Journal.
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