Overcoming incredible odds, Houston lawyer Clifford Ashcroft-Smith recently won big at the Fifth Circuit, and has now petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the Texas gambling laws in a case with nationwide implications. The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to consider Phillip Dell Clark v. United States, Supreme Court of the United States Official Docket, after the case was published in the Fifth Circuit as United States v. Daniel Patrick David and Phillip Dell Clark.
The High Court cert petition focuses on two important issue involving federalism and due process. The first issues concerns whether the federal courts can define sensitive areas of state criminal law by expanding a theory of criminal liability that paints over the implicit concession by a state legislature and recent state court decisions confirming the lawful nature of the actions at issue, rendering the Texas Gambling Statutes void for vagueness.
The second issue focuses on whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendment Due Process safeguards extend to a defendant in a federal prosecution, who presents a mistake of law affirmative defense under the predicate state law, which rests on a proper evidentiary foundation and is central to his defense, but is kept from the jury because the court finds it too incredible to permit.
Nationally, Clark is one of the leading sweepstakes gambling cases. Although Texas has not banned electronic sweepstakes in its criminal statutes, many other states have enacted laws to do so. If the Supreme Court grants Ashcroft-Smith’s petition, the outcome could impact not only Texas criminal laws, but also the gambling and gaming industries nationwide.