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March 12, 2024

On Pulsifer watch again after SCOTUS indicates opinions are coming to close this week.

Regular readers likely recall that I have been watching closely the Supreme Court sentencing case of Pulsifer v. United States, a statutory interpretation matter dealing with a (too) complicated sentencing provision of the FIRST STEP Act.  A resolution of the issue in Pulsifer — which can be imperfectly summarized as a question of whether "and" means "and" or "or" in the context of the Act's expansion of the safety-value mandatory minimum exception — has long been needed and has been a long time coming.

Pulsifer was argued before SCOTUS back in early October 2023 on the very first day of its current Term, and it is relatively rare for a lower-profile case from the start of the Term to still be unresolved by now.  That said, the Justices have been notably slow to issue opinions this Term, and all sorts of emergency matters have surely impacted their usual work flow.   Still, today the SCOTUS hopepage includes a notice that the "Court may announce opinions on Friday, March 15."  This is Court-speak alerting us to the fact that they will hand down at least one opinion (and likely more) Friday morning at 10am, though how many and which one are still matters for speculation.

The last time I was on Pulsifer watch, in early February, I correctly speculated it was likely a bit too soon to expect an opinion given that the oral argument in Pulsifer suggested a divided court, with at least a couple Justices appearing to have strong views on each side of the case.  That reality might still caution against getting hopes up for the Pulsifer opinion this Friday.  Also, though long in coming, there is no obvious time urgency to Pulsifer that might lead the Justices to want to relese this opinion on a Friday rather than just wait until the following week.  But with so much work ahead for the Justices, perhaps the Ides of March might prove to be just the right time for this ruling.  As the Bard of Avon migh caution: "beware."

A few prior related posts about SCOTUS Pulsifer case:

March 12, 2024 at 04:31 PM | Permalink


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