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June 21, 2012

In 5-4 opinion, defendants prevail in crack pipeline cases via the FSA

As I hoped and expected, today brought us not only a pro-defendant Sixth Amendment ruling from the Justices in Southern Union (basics here), but also a pro-defendant statutory ruling the the crack pipeline cases of Hill and Dorsey.  Specifically, as per the early SCOTUSblog report, we have this outcome:

We have the opinion in Dorsey and Hill, the Fair Sentencing Act cases.  The opinion is by Breyer.  The Seventh Circuit is vacated and remanded.  The vote is 5-4.  Justice Scalia dissents, joined by the Chief and Alito and Thomas.

The Court holds that the FSA's new mandatory minimums applies to sentences for crack cocaine imposed after the Act for pre-Act crimes.  Dorsey and Hill have the more traditional line-up that we have come to expect in 5-4 cases.

The full opinion is now at this link and I am certain I wil have much to say about the ruling and its import in the hours to come.

June 21, 2012 at 10:25 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: Christopher Keese | Jun 21, 2012 10:28:06 AM

A well-deserved loss for those fighting to perpetuate one of the most noxious components of the war on drugs.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jun 21, 2012 11:37:36 AM

I've got several clients who are going to be happy about this. I was worried that the Court would not clear up the August-November time period, but they grabbed the bull by the horns and cut off that issue as well. Key to that issue was Justice Breyer's use of the "advisory" nature of the Guidelines. He apparently has come full circle since Booker and become accommodated to advisory Guidelines. It looks like Booker is here to stay (for a while?), so Gall will become that much more important at the Circuit level.

Posted by: Mark Pickrell | Jun 21, 2012 1:33:39 PM

Interesting that he has accommodated himself to advisory guidelines but still resists Aprendi.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 21, 2012 8:24:19 PM

Two interesting aspects about Breyer's opinion: first, his hornbook description of the Sentencing Guidelines really tries to bring new life (or, at least respectability) to the Sentencing Commission. Note the line where Congress in the FSA "accepted the recommendation of the Commission" -- whose recommendation was originally made 17 years ago. As if Congress could never decide on passing the FSA without the prior approval of the Commission.

Secondly, Breyer states that there was a public perception that the 100-1 disparity was racially motivated. Well, if 100-1 is racially motivated, why is 18-1 NOT racially motivated? Is there some ratio: 25-1, 40-1, 65-1 in between 18-1 and 100-1 where 'the public' does not perceive there to be a racial motivation for any disparity? It's very surprising for the Supreme Court to imply that a recent Congress can fairly be described as being racially motivated in their criminal statutes; much more so for the charge to be leveled by implication at the current Congress.

Posted by: Mark Pickrell | Jun 22, 2012 12:13:26 PM

I am an attorney and have several clients that have been waiting for this decision. Clearly, Dorsey will apply to defendants currently on direct review. But, many defendants who were sentenced after August 3, 2010, were sentenced improperly under the old law but never appealed, likely b/c of an appeal waiver, or their appeals have already been decided. Any thoughts on whether those defendants can obtain relief under Dorsey through a § 2255 motion or other post-conviction motion? After Apprendi came out, I remember a long line of cases holding that Apprendi does not apply on collateral review. I am concerned the same with be true for Dorsey.

Posted by: Matthew Robinson | Jun 27, 2012 8:57:44 AM

very interesting I like it and invite me to your blog

Posted by: Babylon | Apr 5, 2013 7:23:08 PM

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