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March 8, 2022

Rounding up some accounts of the latest ACCA wackiness in Wooden

I hope to find some time in the coming days to do some original commentary about the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in US v. Wooden, No. 20-5279 (S. Ct. March 7, 2022) (available here).  I see interesting, telling and problematic aspects to all the opinion in the case, but for now I need to be content here to round up some of what others are saying:

From Law360, "'Night Of Crime' Burglar Is No Career Criminal, Justices Say"

From Slate, "Why All Nine Justices Overturned a Ludicrously Cruel Prison Sentence"

From SCOTUSBlog, "Perhaps defining an “occasion” is not so difficult after all"

From The Volokh Conspiracy, "Justices Spar Over How to Interpret the Armed Career Criminal Act"

March 8, 2022 at 06:34 PM | Permalink


The sentence should have been two years. Instead it was sixteen years. He gets SCOTUS relief after six years from what should have been an easy call for the trial court and U.S. Court of Appeals. Not an exemplary model of the system working as it should, although it did spare him about nine years in prison by the time the dust settles, because somebody in SCOTUS gave him an extraordinary break.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Mar 10, 2022 12:12:18 AM

I'd add that this looks like gross overreach by the Government.

Posted by: John | Mar 10, 2022 12:12:33 PM

I am still wondering why the Feds ever got interested in this case at all? Many years after his original conviction for a relatively small-bore offense, he was found with a gun, and the local authorities declined to prosecute. It's not the type of case you'd normally expect the United States Attorney to take notice of. The USA's do not prosecute every case in which a colorable federal offense could be made out.

I realize that the Federal government and the states are separate sovereigns, and prosecution by one does not preclude the other. Still, I doubt the USA would have prosecuted if the state had. But I question the policy benefits of federally prosecuting a purely local matter when the locals themselves do not.

While it seems obvious that Wooden's only prior qualifying crime was a "single occasion," Kagan's opinion mentioned that several circuits had interpreted the law the way the Sixth Circuit did.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Mar 10, 2022 2:51:24 PM

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