« SCOTUS, in final order of OT 2018, adds two more federal criminal cases to docket for next Term | Main | In federal prosecution following state conviction, Charlottesville killer James Fields gets LWOP sentence »

June 28, 2019

Just how huge is the mess and challenge for lower federal courts after SCOTUS decisions in Davis, Haymond and Rehaif?

I feel like, in order to really understand their import, I will need weeks, maybe months, to reread and reflect on the three decisions that were big wins for federal criminal defendants handed down by SCOTUS in the last week.  But, of course, lower courts do not have an academic's luxury of time to make sense of US v. Davis, No. 18-431 (S. Ct. June 24, 2019) (available here; discussed here), US v. Haymond, No. 17-1672 (S. Ct. June 26, 2019) (available here; discussed here) and Rehaif v. US, No. 17-9560 (S. Ct. June 21, 2019) (available here; discussed here). 

I suspect some lower courts are already starting to get motions from federal prisoners or defendants in pending cases that are based on these rulings.  And the Supreme Court's final order list this morning has a bunch of remands based on these rulings that highlight the coming work for federal Circuit Courts as well.  (For those interested in an accounting, I counted sixth Davis GVRs, one Haymond GVR, and four Rehaif GVRs.)

I will not try in this post to sort out the likely litigation echoes of these cases, but I will try to crowd source opinions as to which of these cases will prove most impactful and consequential.  Of course, impactful and consequential can be defined lots of different ways — e.g., it might be gauged based on the number of disruptions of prior convictions and sentences, emergence of a new jurisprudence, possible legislative responses, total volume of cites and litigation, etc.  Without getting too bogged down in trying to define these terms, I just want to put the question out there for collective engagement among the always informed and thoughtful readers of this blog:

Among the trio of Davis, Haymond and Rehaif, which of these recent rulings by SCOTUS for a federal criminal defendant do you think will prove to be the most impactful and consequential?

June 28, 2019 at 12:15 PM | Permalink


Any mess the lower courts are in is because of their incompetence and greed. When an inmate has served their full time, there should be no probation and if a probation is felt to be needed, a year should be plenty of time to see if they are adjusting to life outside of prison.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Jun 29, 2019 10:23:39 AM

Rehaif. If for no other reason than 922(g) is one of the most commonly charged federal crimes, and it sure seems like a substantive (and therefore retroactive) rule.

Davis is just a continuation of Johnson, though an important one for sure! and Haymond is quite limited to a rarely used statute, and the Breyer concurrence cuts off any broader application.

Posted by: Anon AFPD | Jun 29, 2019 5:25:31 PM

I mostly concur in this analysis, Anon AFPD, but Haymond may inspire more aggressive litigation in the SR and related arenas. And I think the Rehaif knowing showing ought to be pretty easy to make in most cases. In the end, I think all will ripple through, but not explode, the federal CJ system.

Posted by: Doug B | Jun 29, 2019 8:15:30 PM

Didn't Thomas join the majority in Alleyne v. US? Couldn't he (or Kavanaugh) replace Breyer in a Haymond follow-up case and over-rule Morrissey v. Brewer once-and-for-all?

Posted by: OAFL Gregory | Jul 1, 2019 10:18:01 PM

Yes, OAFL Gregory, Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh (as well as the Chief) proved themselves fair weather Sixth Amendment fans. Justice Alito is the only current Justice who has been persistently opposition to extending the reach of Apprendi and its progeny, but I fear Justice Gorsuch and Sotomayor are the only ones always inclined to do so.

Posted by: Doug B | Jul 3, 2019 10:08:25 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB