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March 31, 2023

Recapping and assessing a SCOTUS week full of federal criminal case oral arguments

This week's biggest legal news is surely the reports of a notable state indictment out of the Big Apple.  But, as previously previewed here, this week was also a big one for federal criminal case oral arguments before the US Supreme Court.  With help from SCOTUSblog and a few other sources, here are some recaps of how these arguments went:

United States v. Hansen, No. 22-179:

Lora v. United States, No. 22-49:

Smith v. United States, No. 21-1576:

Samia v. United States, No. 22-196:

Though I have not really followed any of these cases all that closely, I am still prepared to provide an "over/under" betting line at 2.5 wins for federal criminal defendants from this week's SCOTUS cases.  It seems the federal criminal defendant has a pretty good shot of prevailing in Hansen and Lora, but probably not in Smith, and Samia probably should be viewed as a toss up.  But perhaps folks who have followed these cases more closely will have a wiser take.

March 31, 2023 at 09:30 AM | Permalink


Shocked you're not also talking about the Shaman, who has just been released on home detention.

And, I'll pose the question again--do imprisoned rape victims have the right to attack prison guards who are their repeated rapists so as to proactively prevent another rape. And what rights to people kept past their sentences have vs. those of gen pop? I ask these questions as food for thought. For example, if a person has served his time, yet remains incarcerated erroneously, does he have the right to talk back to guards and not get written up? What mechanism is there for the continued disability with respect to his constitutional rights?

Posted by: federalist | Mar 31, 2023 11:05:59 AM

I was thinking about posting about the "the shaman" getting to a halfway house, but I'd like to do so in conjunction with a broader set of posts about the "true" outcomes of the January 6 cases.

On the prison front, I am troubled by the idea that prisoners entirely lose their self defense rights in prison. But how do you run a prison if any and every time a prisoner is alleged to have hit/harmed another prisoner, the authorities then need to litigate SD contentions before any discipline is imposed? And I assume you would not claim, federalist, that a prisoner retains his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in service to any SD needs in prison. (Notably, some jurisdictions will not allow prisoners to claim a necessity defenses for escape when they claim they escaped to avoid credible death/sex offense threats. SD is often seen as a subset of necessity -- though I see more in play.)

I agree there are hard issues, but made harder still if we think prisoners should feel emboldened to "self-help" mechanisms. If someone is being illegally held in prison, the remedy that makes sense to me is a suit for damages after a court agrees that someone has been held illegally. Heck, Trump and his team surely think that his indictment is illegal/erroneous. Should he have a right to attack (physically and verbally) all the people in the NYC court system who are going to help "book" him on Tuesday?

Posted by: Doug B | Mar 31, 2023 11:59:33 AM


Here’s a story of sentencing

Posted by: Federalist | Apr 1, 2023 7:51:29 AM

So what you’re saying is—by mere virtue of an illegal incarceration, people lose constitutional rights—interesting. Obviously 2A isn’t a problem because they’re almost certainly disabled by virtue of conviction.

Posted by: Federalist | Apr 1, 2023 8:03:22 AM

Trump has every right to criticize the judge—even publish his home address. Hasn’t that ship sailed after Donna protests?

Posted by: Federalist | Apr 1, 2023 8:05:13 AM

federalist, we can put your last comments together to ask: "Do you think Trump has a right to physically attack the NYC judge and/or the NYC prosecutors or the NYC security personnel at his arraignment if he sincerely believes they may subject him to 'illegal incarceration'?"

It's quite rare any claim of "illegal incarceration" is uncontested -- eg, there are claims some/all Jan 6 defendants are being illegally incarcerated; every habeas petitioner must claiming some form of illegal incarceration, etc. -- so the issue is how such claims should be resolved and what an incarcerated persons can legally do while such claims are being considered/addressed by courts. All I am saying here is that persons who are incarcerated (even those prior to conviction like Jan 6 detainees) do not have a general right to attack guards (or to have a gun for self protection in their cells) even if they believe and can make a viable claim of "illegal incarceration." Similarly, I do not think DJT has a right to attack law enforcement officers and lawyers/judges at arraignment even if fearing he will face "illegal incarceration."

Like your curious recent EP claim that you seem no longer to be trying to explain or defend, federalist, your passions are seemingly leading you to be unmoored from existing or sensible legal doctrines. That said, if you could somehow explain how many defendants can block prosecutions on EP grounds and/or how many prisoners can attack guards, you might still garner lots of fans in the legal academy (where being moored to law is rarely essential).

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 1, 2023 10:52:49 AM

To get back to the supposed topic of this thread, I am not sure that I see Hansen as a clean win for the defendant. As I've noted earlier, it's much easier to write an opinion affirming the conviction by narrowly construing the statute. And there are some justices that might like to trim the overbreadth doctrine. And a broad opinion favoring the defendant would potentially cause problems for accessory liability generally.

As I think the argument summary notes, Samia might be the criminal case most likely to result in a plurality opinion. Clear guidance on what you need to redact to be able to use one defendant's statement in a multiple defendant trial would be nice, but I am not sure that we are going to get it.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 3, 2023 10:44:19 AM

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