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June 28, 2016

Final SCOTUS order list has nine Mathis GVRs ... and I suspect hundreds more cases will be impacted

The Supreme Court this morning finished up its work before heading out on summer vacation by issuing this order list. Though the Justices granted review in eight new cases, none appear to involve criminal justice issues. But the order list still had a bit of sentencing intrigue by including nine GVRs based on its Mathis ACCA ruling from last week (basics here).

Though it is never surprising to see a spate of GVRs in the wake of any significant ruling about a federal sentencing statute, I suspect that the fall-out from Mathis will extended to many more cases because, as reported via Justice Alito's dissent, it seems the ruling means that "in many States, no burglary conviction will count" as a possible ACCA predicate offense. That reality not only can impact many past, present and future ACCA cases, but also could also echo through the application of burglary (and even other crimes) in past career offender guideline cases.

Ultimately, I would be very surprised in the impact and import of Mathis end up nearly as grand or as complicated as last Term's Johnson ruling. But the consequential sentencing math of Mathis still may be major.

June 28, 2016 at 04:57 PM | Permalink



Since Mathis is simply an application of Descamps, and since Mathis is not a new rule of constitutional law, aren't all defendants whose convictions were final when Mathis issued out of luck?

Or do you think that prisoners whose sentences were enhanced under statutes we now know were indivisible will be able to invoke 2241 to claim that they are actually innocent of the enhanced sentence?

Posted by: Dragon | Jun 28, 2016 5:32:01 PM

Dragon, statutory interpretations are not subject to Teague retroactivity limits, but federal ACCA defendants mahy face other procedural barriers to getting relief in court.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 29, 2016 1:49:17 AM


That may be true but they ARE subject to the second or successive limits, which ared allowed only if the SCOTUS promulgates a new rule of CONSTITUTIONAL law. Mathis surely ain't such a rule. So the only way around that, for defendants who've used up there one bite at the 2255 apple, would be to resort to 2241.

Posted by: Dragon | Jun 29, 2016 9:41:56 AM

Sorry "there" should be "their"

Posted by: Dragon | Jun 29, 2016 10:06:57 AM

Right you are, Dragon, and that is one of the other procedural burdens I was referencing. And I believe there is still a circuit split over whether (1) misapplication of ACCA is a constitutional error, and (2) prisoners can use 2241 to fix ACCA errors if they cannot fix it through 2255. And, as you may know, I have written a law review article asserting that all the Teague/AEPDA/finality rules/norms created to limit attacks/review of final convictions ought not be applied in cases where only a final sentence is being questioned. The post-Mathis world provides yet another setting in which a bunch of procedural hurdles will likely preclude some (many?) defendants from getting substantively inaccurate sentences corrected.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 29, 2016 3:11:53 PM

Ok. But what about 2241 for career offenders whose crimes of violence were premised upon statutes that Mathis shows were categorically overbroad? I don't think the original Great Writ was intended to correct errors in calculating the advisory Guidelines range inside a lawful statutory max....

Posted by: Dragon | Jun 29, 2016 11:22:24 PM

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