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Matt Kaplan recently argued an important case before the D.C. Court of Appeals, sitting en banc. The issue in the case was how the District of Columbia’s confusingly worded kidnapping statute should be interpreted.

Until now the statute has been interpreted extraordinarily broadly, to criminalize conduct that bears no resemblance to kidnapping. Under current case law, virtually any conduct by a person that hinders or restricts the movement of another is deemed to be a kidnapping, a felony punishable by up to thirty years imprisonment. Mr. Kaplan’s client was convicted of kidnapping because he grabbed another person, a grab that, according to the government’s police officer witness, lasted a “split second.”

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, D.C.’s highest court, seemingly recognizes that the current state of the law is absurd, which is presumably why it took the unusual step of hearing this case en banc–with all the active judges participating. Only an en banc court can overrule the earlier decisions by three-judge panels of the court which expansively defined kidnapping.

At oral argument, the attorney for the United States insisted that the current interpretation of kidnapping was proper. That attorney was asked by one of the judges whether it would be kidnapping under D.C. law if, on the way out of the court, the attorney momentarily grabbed Mr. Kaplan by the shoulder to congratulate him on his argument. The government’s attorney told the judges that it would be. The court did not seem receptive to the government’s point of view.

The case is United States v. Velasquez Cardozo. The oral argument can be viewed here. Matthew B. Kaplan is the Kaplan Law Firm’s principal attorney. He has extensive experience litigating criminal and civil appeals in federal and state courts. This is the second case that Mr. Kaplan has argued before the en banc Court of Appeals in the last six months.