Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday news and notes

1. Justice Stevens says NO to Kavanaugh. From the Palm Beach Post:

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on Thursday said that high court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who Stevens once lauded in one of his books, does not belong on the Supreme Court.

Speaking to a crowd of retirees in Boca Raton, Stevens, 98, said Kavanaugh’s performance during a recent Senate confirmation hearing suggested that he lacks the temperament for the job.

Stevens, a lifelong Republican who is known for falling on the liberal side of several judicial rulings, praised Kavanaugh and one of his rulings on a political contribution case in the 2014 book “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

“At that time, I thought (Kavanaugh) had the qualifications for the Supreme Court should he be selected,” Stevens said. “I’ve changed my views for reasons that have no relationship to his intellectual ability … I feel his performance in the hearings ultimately changed my mind.”

2. In the WSJ, Kavanaugh says, but I was just emotional at the hearings. I won't be like that as a judge:
I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said. I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad. I testified with five people foremost in my mind: my mom, my dad, my wife, and most of all my daughters.

Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good. As a judge, I have always treated colleagues and litigants with the utmost respect. I have been known for my courtesy on and off the bench. I have not changed. I will continue to be the same kind of judge I have been for the last 12 years. And I will continue to contribute to our country as a coach, volunteer, and teacher. Every day I will try to be the best husband, dad, and friend I can be. I will remain optimistic, on the sunrise side of the mountain. I will continue to see the day that is coming, not the day that is gone.

I revere the Constitution. I believe that an independent and impartial judiciary is essential to our constitutional republic. If confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep an open mind in every case and always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.

3. Meantime, the 11th Circuit had 153 pages of en banc-ness yesterday in another Johnson follow up case, called Ovalles. One of our newer judges, Newsom, wrote the majority opinion. (Strangely it doesn't say who joined the opinion). Bill Pryor wrote a concurrence (joined by Ed Carnes, Tjoflat, Newsom, and Branch). Martin wrote a dissent. Jill Pryor wrote a dissent (in which Wilson, Martin, and Jordan joined).

Newsom's opinion explains:
The question before us is whether one of the key provisions of an important federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), is unconstitutionally vague. As relevant to our purposes, § 924(c) makes it a federal offense—punishable by a term of imprisonment ranging from five years to life—for any person to use, carry, or possess a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). The provision challenged here—§ 924(c)(3)’s “residual clause”—defines the term “crime of violence” to mean a felony “that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.” Id. § 924(c)(3)(B).
The obvious (and decisive) question, then: Which is it here—categorical or conduct-based? Because we find ourselves at this fork in the interpretive road—the categorical approach imperiling § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause, a conduct-based reading saving it—we invoke the canon of “constitutional doubt.” Pursuant to that “elementary rule,” the Supreme Court has long held, “every reasonable construction must be resorted to in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.” Hooper v. California, 155 U.S. 648, 657 (1895). The pivotal issue, therefore, is not whether § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause is necessarily, or even best, read to incorporate a conduct-based interpretation—but simply whether it can “reasonabl[y],” see id., “plausibl[y],” Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371, 381 (2005), or “fairly possibl[y],” I.N.S. v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 300 (2001), be so understood. Joining the Second Circuit, which recently came to the same conclusion, see United States v. Barrett, __ F.3d ___, 2018 WL 4288566 (2d Cir. Sept. 10, 2018), we find that § 924(c)(3)(B) can be read to embody the conduct-based approach—and therefore, under the constitutional-doubt canon, that it must be.
Accordingly, we hold that § 924(c)(3)(B) prescribes a conduct-based approach, pursuant to which the crime-of-violence determination should be made by reference to the actual facts and circumstances underlying a defendant’s offense. To the extent that our earlier decision in United States v. McGuire, 706 F.3d 1333 (11th Cir. 2013), holds otherwise, it is overruled.

Pryor's concurrence starts out this way:
How did we ever reach the point where this Court, sitting en banc, must debate whether a carjacking in which an assailant struck a 13-year-old girl in the mouth with a baseball bat and a cohort fired an AK-47 at her family is a crime of violence? It’s nuts. And Congress needs to act to end this ongoing judicial charade.


As United States Circuit Judges, we have been given great power and privilege. And our positions call upon us to decide the fate of many people who have neither. In a nation that incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than almost all others, federal judges devote much time to examining (and reexamining) the sentences imposed on people serving time in our federal and state prisons. The interpretation the majority of this en banc Court gives to the sentencing statute at issue here, which gives no relief for Irma Ovalles, presents the opportunity to review the development of this Circuit’s sentencing jurisprudence in recent years. My review reveals a body of law that has relentlessly limited the ability of the incarcerated to have their sentences reviewed. Decisions of this Court have left only a narrow path to relief for those serving sentences longer than the law now allows. Yet this narrow path is not mandated by decisions of the Supreme Court or by Acts of Congress. Indeed, this Court has withheld relief from prisoners even when precedent counsels otherwise.

This paragraph struck me:
My final observation about the majority’s en banc ruling against Ms. Ovalles is to note that the majority opinion makes much of the fact that the government has asked us to abandon the categorical approach in interpreting § 924(c)(3)(B). See Maj. Op. at 29–30. Judge Jill Pryor’s dissent explains why this consideration should not factor into our analysis of the statute at issue. Jill Pryor Dissent at 144–45. I would add that, when deciding whether Johnson was retroactive, we paid no heed to the government’s concession that it was. See supra at 1–2. If we are going to defer to the government’s view, we should do so whether it advocates for or against relief for the prisoner.

And finally, here's Jill Pryor:

This case—with all its textual analysis, discussion of canons of statutory construction, and parsing of precedent—may come across like a purely academic exercise. In reality, it is anything but. People who are serving sentences of five years to life under § 924(c) will get no relief from this Court even though the Supreme Court held that an identically-worded statute was so vague that its enforcement violated the right to due process under law. For the reasons I explain in more detail below, I respectfully dissent.


Anonymous said...

Breaking news. 11th rules against criminal defendant.

Anonymous said...

It is rather tough for a carjacker to catch a break these days. Frowny face.

Anonymous said...

Great response. Yes we should jettison the law when deciding cases involving those who commit violent acts.

Anonymous said...

“any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence . . . uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm"

Here the guy pistol whipped his victim in a carjacking.

How does this 11th cir case jettison the law again?

Thanks. Im a bit of a simpleton, as I'm sure you have already deduced.

Anonymous said...

Not a simpleton just ignorant. The 11th jettisoned the categorical approach which does not look at the actual facts. The use of the categorical approach has been the law for many, many years. The 11th disregarded to get the result wanted.

Anonymous said...

Please don't let Facts or the Law get in the way of Precedent.. let's keep the wheels moving.

Anonymous said...

Ed Carnes? Is that you?