By Ken Stone
It could have been worse. Rep. Duncan Hunter might have been sent to Anchorage, Alaska, one of the most remote outposts of the sprawling 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Instead, Hunter and San Diego attorney Devin Burstein will travel 1,200 miles to Seattle to argue that the six-term Republican should be freed of criminal charges involving campaign spending.
On Monday, it emerged that Burstein and Hunter will appear at 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, in Courtroom 2 on the William K. Nakamura U.S. Courthouse’s seventh floor.But a three-judge panel won’t allow Burstein and government prosecutors much time to argue an appeal based on the “Speech or Debate” clause of the Constitution.
“Cases scheduled for oral argument will be assigned 10, 15, 20 or occasionally 30 minutes per side,” said a 9th Circuit explainer. “Check the calendar to determine your time allotment.”
Burstein will get 10 minutes, according to court records.
He’s expected to catch a break as far as supplemental briefs, however.
Originally, he and the San Diego U.S. Attorney’s Office were given until Oct. 9 to add to their arguments. On Monday, Burstein asked the 9th Circuit for an extra week — until Oct. 16. The prosecution didn’t object.
“When the Court issued its order on September 25, 2019, I was out of the country,” Burstein wrote. “I was unable to begin working on the supplemental brief right away.”When he returned, he was delayed again because be has a reply brief due this coming Thursday in the case of United States v. Aragon.
“My client is in custody,” he said of Salvador Arteaga Aragon, a convicted drug dealer facing a 10-year sentence, “and I have already received an extension for the reply brief. I need to complete and file that brief before turning my attention to the supplemental brief in this case.”
With more than eight weeks before the Dec. 12 oral argument, “granting the short extension should not delay resolution of this case,” he wrote.
According to court instructions, “the judges have studied the briefs and the excerpts of record and will be familiar with the facts and issues of the case. Argument should be devoted to clarifying issues as needed and to responding to questions raised by the judges of the panel.”
Fellow Republican Chris Collins of New York — who joined Hunter as the first two House members to endorse Donald Trump for president — spared himself future court dates, though.
On Monday, the 69-year-old congressman resigned his seat a day before he was expected to plead guilty to federal insider trading charges.
If the 9th Circuit doesn’t dismiss charges or delay a ruling, Hunter will go on trial Jan. 14.
Updated at 8:45 a.m. Oct. 1, 2019
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