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January 31, 2008

Fifth Circuit flags yet another criminal history circuit split for SCOTUS to consider

By my count, the Supreme Court this Term has four cases on its docket (which is more than 5% of its merits docket) committed to resolving circuit splits concerning the impact and import of state criminal convictions in the application of federal sentencing law: (1) Logan (decided last month, basics here); (2) Rodriquez (argued earlier this month, basics here); (3) Begay (argued earlier this month, basics here); and (4) Burgess (to be argued in March, basics here).  As federal sentencing practitioners know, however, there are plenty more cases like these producing circuit splits over state criminal history and federal sentencing rules.

Another splitting criminal history headache is showcased in a recent Fifth Circuit ruling, US vs. Lopez-Salas, No. 06-41637 (5th Cir. Jan. 3, 2008) (available here).  Interestingly, in this case the Fifth Circuit expressly rejects the government's interpretation of the criminal history aspect of the immigration guidelines, and interpretation which the district court and a prior Eleventh Circuit decision had adopted.  It will be interesting to see if the government considers appealing this ruling and gives SCOTUS yet another opportunity to examine the wonderful intricacies of state criminal history and federal sentencing law.

January 31, 2008 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

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