1. The 11th Circuit was an outlier on the First Step Act, holding that courts could not consider intervening changes of law or fact in exercising their discretion to reduce a sentence. The Supreme Court reversed, 5-4, per Justice Sotomayor (joined by Kagan, Breyer, Thomas, and Gorsuch). The opinion starts this way:
There is a longstanding tradition in American law, dating back to the dawn of the Republic, that a judge at sentencing considers the whole person before him or her “as an individual.” Koon v. United States, 518 U. S. 81, 113 (1996). In line with this history, federal courts today generally “exercise a wide discretion in the sources and types of evidence used” to craft appropriate sentences. Williams v. New York, 337 U. S. 241, 246 (1949). When a defendant appears for sentencing, the sentencing court considers the defendant on that day, not on the date of his offense or the date of his conviction. Pepper v. United States, 562 U. S. 476, 492 (2011). Similarly, when a defendant’s sentence is set aside on appeal, the district court at resentencing can (and in many cases, must) consider the defendant’s conduct and changes in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines since the original sentencing. Ibid.
Congress enacted the First Step Act of 2018 against that backdrop. The First Step Act authorizes district courts to reduce the prison sentences of defendants convicted of certain offenses involving crack cocaine. The Act allows a district court to impose a reduced sentence “as if ” the revised penalties for crack cocaine enacted in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 were in effect at the time the offense was committed. The question in this case is whether a district court adjudicating a motion under the First Step Act may consider other intervening changes of law (such as changes tothe Sentencing Guidelines) or changes of fact (such as behavior in prison) in adjudicating a First Step Act motion.
The Court holds that they may. It is only when Congress or the Constitution limits the scope of information that a district court may consider in deciding whether, and to what extent, to modify a sentence, that a district court’s discretion to consider information is restrained. Nothing in the First Step Act contains such a limitation. Because district courts are always obligated to consider nonfrivolous arguments presented by the parties, the First Step Act requires district courts to consider intervening changes when parties raise them. By its terms, however, the First Step Act does not compel courts to exercise their discretion to reduce any sentence based on those arguments.
The District Court in this case declined to consider petitioner Carlos Concepcion’s arguments that intervening changes of law and fact supported his motion, erroneously believing that it did not have the discretion to do so, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court now reverses.
2. The 11th was also an outlier on whether doctors could in good faith prescribe medications. It held in United States v. Ruan, 966 F.3d 1101, 1120 that a subjective believe that a doctor is meeting a patient's medical needs is not a complete defense and that the doctor must also meet an objective standard. The Supreme Court reversed 9-0 per Justice Breyer:
Finally, the Government argues that requiring it to prove that a doctor knowingly or intentionally acted not as authorized will allow bad-apple doctors to escape liability by claiming idiosyncratic views about their prescribing authority. See, e.g., Brief for United States 33. This kind of argument, however, can be made in many cases imposing scienter requirements, and we have often rejected it on bases similar to those we have set forth in Part II of this opinion. See, e.g., Rehaif, 588 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 8); Liparota, 471 U. S., at 433–434.
We do the same here. The Government, of course, can prove knowledge of a lack of authorization through circumstantial evidence. See ibid. And the regulation defining the scope of a doctor’s prescribing authority does so by reference to objective criteria such as “legitimate medical purpose” and “usual course” of “professional practice.” 21 CFR §1306.04(a); see Gonzales, 546 U. S., at 285 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (“The use of the word ‘legitimate’ connotes an objective standard of ‘medicine’”); Moore, 423 U. S., at 141– 142 (describing Congress’ intent “to confine authorizedmedical practice within accepted limits” (emphasis added)).As we have said before, “the more unreasonable” a defendant’s “asserted beliefs or misunderstandings are,” especially as measured against objective criteria, “the morelikely the jury . . . will find that the Government has carried its burden of proving knowledge.” Cheek v. United States, 498 U. S. 192, 203–204 (1991). But the Government must still carry this burden. And for purposes of a criminal conviction under §841, this requires proving that a defendant knew or intended that his or her conduct was unauthorized.
See, judges on the 11th Circuit, it's OK to rule for criminal defendants. You don't ALWAYS have to rule for the government.