Next term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case from the Atlanta federal appellate court that could shorten prison terms for thousands of people.
Miami Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso won a coveted slot on the high court's docket for an issue that's roiling the federal circuits. In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which stands alone on this matter, one judge went so far as to accuse her court of fomenting injustice through unforced errors.
The question for the U.S. Supreme Court is whether possession of a sawed-off shotgun is a crime of violence under federal sentencing guidelines for career offenders. Significant swings in mandatory sentence zones — from up to 10 years to 15 years to life — turn on the answer.
The court ruled a year ago in Johnson v. United States that a similar provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act is unconstitutionally vague. A "residual clause" in the definition of a violent felony allows enhanced sentences for any crime involving "conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another." Prosecutors argued that the definition covered nonviolent crimes like drunken driving and attempted burglary.
In Johnson, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for an 8-1 majority that the residual clause invites "arbitrary enforcement." The court decided the wording violates due process, being "so vague that it fails to give ordinary people fair notice of the conduct it punishes," in Scalia's words.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Caruso and company lead Johnson fight
I missed this DBR article last week, which details the developments with Johnson in the 11th Circuit, including the cert grant in Beckles. Big ups to Michael Caruso, Janice Bergman, and Brenda Bryn for leading this fight. Here's the intro: