Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:

A federal judge ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury in the January 6 investigation.

  • Special counsel Jack Smith issued the subpoena to Pence in February, seeking testimony and documents related to the attack at the Capitol and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Pence is considered to be a key witness in the investigation. As documented by the January 6 Committee and other reporting, Trump pressured Pence to interfere in the congressional certification of the Electoral College ballots, and Pence also spoke on the phone with Trump on the morning of January 6, 2021. 
  • Pence and Trump both initiated legal proceedings in efforts to shield Pence from complying with the subpoena. In court filings, Trump argued that executive privilege keeps their communications private, while Pence invoked the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause in his effort to avoid testifying. The clause shields members of Congress from the specter of law enforcement scrutiny for conduct within the scope of their congressional duties.
  • In a pair of rulings that remain under seal, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg reportedly determined that neither executive privilege nor the “speech or debate” clause outright prohibit Pence from testifying. However, Boasberg reportedly ruled that Pence has some protection under the “speech or debate” clause, therefore he need not testify about his own actions on January 6 — but Pence must still testify about any potential illegal acts committed by Trump.
  • The Pence order follows a separate order compelling a number of other Trump aides to testify in the investigation. Judge Beryl Howell determined that executive privilege does not shield testimony from, among others, former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien, and Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller. Trump is reportedly appealing the order.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that challenges an immigration statute on free speech grounds.

  • The law at issue in the case, United States v. Hansen, criminalizes “encourag[ing] or induc[ing]” an immigrant to unlawfully “come to, enter, or reside in the United States.” The justices appear divided over whether the law violates the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of speech.
  • During the arguments, the justices posed a number of hypothetical questions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wondered how family members might speak with an undocumented grandmother. Sotomayor said, “The grandmother tells her son she’s worried about the burden she’s putting on the family, and the son says, Abuelita, you are never a burden to us. If you want to live here — continue living here with us, your grandchildren love having you … [W]hat do you tell the grandmother? … People have to know what they can talk about.”
  • Justice Elena Kagan was also concerned about the broad implications of the law. “What happens to all the cases where it could be a lawyer, it could be a doctor, it could be a neighbor, it could be a friend, it could be a teacher, it could be anybody says to a noncitizen, ‘I really think you should stay?’” she asked. 
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh, meanwhile, questioned how the law might chill the work of charitable organizations. Kavanaugh said, “There’s still going to be a chill or a threat of prosecution for them for providing food and shelter and aid and recommending people for scholarships.” A decision in the case is expected early summer.

Week In a Nutshell is part of the free weekly CAFE Brief newsletter. 

Sign up free to receive the CAFE Brief in your inbox every Friday: