ArticlesVolume 7, Issue 1 (2016)

Puerto Rico Before the Supreme Court of the United States: Constitutional Colonialism in Action

Andrés González Berdecía

Associate, Sepulvado & Maldonado, PSC. B.A., University of Puerto Rico, 2008. J.D., University of Puerto Rico, 2011. LL.M., Columbia Law School, 2014. United States Supreme Court Fellow, NAAG Center for Supreme Court Advocacy, Spring 2016
Citation:7 COLUM. J. RACE & L. 80 (2016)

Abstract

The United States Supreme Court’s October 2015 Term will go down in history as the most significant one for Puerto Rico-United States relations in more than a century.  By opting to address the issues presented in Puerto Rico v. Sánchez Valle, a constitutional case arising from the Commonwealth courts, and Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust, a statutory case arising from the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, the answer to which directly related to one’s understanding of the nature of the political status between Puerto Rico and the United States, the United States Supreme Court set in motion a series of unprecedented actions by the Commonwealth government, the President, Congress, Commonwealth and federal judges, and civil society in general—both in San Juan and Washington, D.C.—that illustrate, now more clearly than ever, why Puerto Rico legally remains a 21st century colony of the United States.

Part II of this Article will discuss Puerto Rico v. Sánchez Valle, setting forth the underlying facts of the case, the legal issues presented, what Puerto Rico courts held, and what the United States Supreme Court ultimately decided.  Part III will focus on Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax Free Trust, following the same basic structure.  Part IV will illustrate how both cases reveal unequivocally that the United States’ legal treatment of Puerto Rico amounts to pure colonialism.  Finally, Part V will conclude by analyzing whether the Supreme Court of the United States can, or should, take action to fix this reality.