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January 3, 2008

Previewing two coming ACCA cases

Though unlikely to get much media attention, the Supreme Court has two Armer Career Criminal Act cases on tap for argument on January 15 that should be of interest to sentencing and statutory interpretation fans.  I wrote up a formal preview of these case for ABA's request, and the ABA folks have graciously allowed me to post my write-up here.  This passage from my preview highlights why two seemingly little cases raise a lot of big issues:

Though technically raising pure issues of statutory interpretation, these ACCA cases implicate a number of cross-cutting jurisprudential and policy considerations.  On the statutory construction front, the Justices frequently debate and disagree about whether to focus only on the express text enacted by Congress or on the broader legislative purposes and history that might help inform the text.  Also, in the criminal justice context, some Justices (including some perceived to be conservative) regularly invoke various due process and fairness principles to reject expansive interpretations of federal criminal statutes urged by the Department of Justice.  In addition, many Justices have expressed concerns in opinionsand speeches about rigid mandatory sentencing terms that sometimes unduly limit district judges’ discretion to achieve case-specific justice at sentencing.  Further, in a series of (technically unrelated) recent constitutional rulings, a majority of Justices have consistently held that the Sixth Amendment’s jury trial right prevents district judges from making certain factual findings that increase the defendant’s maximum available sentence term.

Download acca_aba_preview_2008.pdf

January 3, 2008 at 08:18 AM | Permalink

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