June 6, 2006

Press coverage of cert grant in Burton

The MSM has just a little coverage of the cert grant in Burton v. Waddington, the case in which the Supreme Court has decided to take up the issue of Blakely retroactivity (basics here, commentary here).  The AP provides this (slightly inaccurate) description of main issue in Burton, and this local story from the Seattle Post Intelligencer provides more background about the facts in the case.

Along with others with whom I have spoken, I continue to scratch my head about why the Supreme Court chose Burton as the case to address Blakely retroactivity.  Perhaps the extent of the Blakely-violative enhancement (which produced a 20-year sentence increase) caught the Justices' attention, or perhaps they just wanted to take yet another case from Washington.  Whatever the reason for taking Burton, it is going to be a Blakely SCOTUS fall with both Burton and Cunningham coming up for argument.

June 6, 2006 at 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 5, 2006

The cert briefs in Burton

Thanks to a couple of kind readers, I now have copies of the cert briefs from Burton v. Waddington, the case in which the Supreme Court has decided to take up the issue of Blakely retroactivity (basics here, commentary here).  Relatedly, federal public defender David Porter has some advice for practitioners at the Ninth Circuit Blog:

With this cert. grant and the Court's earlier grant in Whorton v. Bockting (on the issue of Crawford's retroactivity), it is more important than ever to PRESERVE THE ISSUE.

Download burton_petition.pdf

Download burton_brief_in_opp.pdf

Download burton_reply_cert.pdf

June 5, 2006 at 06:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack


Could they, would they, should they ... declare Blakely retroactive?

I am not sure what I consider more fun right now: speculating why exactly the Supreme Court has decided to take up in Burton v. Waddington the issue of Blakely retroactivity in the absence of any real lower court split (basics here) OR speculating whether the Court has the cohones to declare Blakely retroactive.  Bright commentors are already thinking through the merits here, though they make the common mistake of overlooking that Schriro (concerning Ring's retroactivity) only considered the judge/jury aspect of factfinding, and not the additional burden of proof issue.  Also, recent changes in personnel make every Blakely-related Justice head-count different now.

Way back when, I did a lot of coverage of Blakely retroactivity issues, and most of my major posts on the topic can be found in this category archive.  Here are some highlights for those now eager to read up on this issue:

June 5, 2006 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Supreme Court to take up Blakely retroactivity!

Though I was prepared for the big SCOTUS sentencing news to emerge from new opinions, instead the news comes from a cert grant.  As reported here at SCOTUSblog:

The Court also agreed to hear a case on the retroactivity of its ruling in Blakely v. Washington, one of a series of rulings limiting criminal sentences when facts have not been found by a jury, but by a judge.  The new case is Burton v. Waddington (05-9222). The case tests whether Blakely established a new rule and, if it did, whether it applies retroactively. The Court's grant of review of these issues was something of a surprise, since the Court has repeatedly refused to hear retroactivity claims on the Apprendi line of cases.

One of many ironies here, of course, is that Blakely retroactivity is one of the few major post-Blakely issues that has not generated much of a lower court split in the states or in the federal system.  Nevertheless, this issue has long been on my list of post-Blakely issues that SCOTUS should resolve.  And I am, of course, please to see SCOTUS take my advice to fill its fallow docket with Blakely and Booker issues.

Right now, I know nothing about the particulars of Burton v. Waddington except that it comes from the Ninth Circuit.  Readers are encouraged to fill me in, and I'll be doing a bit of my own digging. Good thing I already have this Apprendi/Blakely Retroactivity category archive collecting my posts on this topic.

June 5, 2006 at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack


January 10, 2006

DC Circuit weighs in on Booker retroactivity issue

The DC Circuit today in In Re: Zambrano, No. 05-3106a  (D.C. Cir. Jan 10, 2006) (available here), had an opportunity to talk about Booker retroactivity in the habeas context.  Here is the introduction and conclusion to the careful and clear opinion:

Regulo Zambrano applies for leave to file a second motion to vacate his criminal sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, contending that the sentence is unconstitutional under United States v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 738 (2005).  We cannot authorize the filing, however, because the Supreme Court has not made Booker retroactive to cases on collateral review....

For these reasons, we conclude that Booker is not a new rule of constitutional law "made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2255.  In so holding, we join all of the circuits that have considered the question.  The application for leave to file a second § 2255 motion is denied.

January 10, 2006 at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


December 9, 2005

Fifth Circuit officially rejects retroactive application of Booker

The Fifth Circuit has, through its decision in US v. Gentry, No. 04-11221 (5th Cir. Dec. 8, 2005) (available here), joined circuit bandwagon in declaring that Booker is not to be applied retroactively.  Providing a thorough analysis of all the basic doctrinal issues (but not acknowledging any academic commentary to the contrary), the Gentry court ends its analysis with this concluding paragraph:

In In re Elwood, we held that Booker may not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review for purposes of a successive § 2255 motion. Elwood, 408 F.3d 211 (5th Cir. 2005).  Now, we join the several courts of appeals that have held that Booker does not apply retroactively to initial § 2255 motions. Because we hold that Booker does not apply retroactively to Gentry's motion, Appellant's motion fails.

A final footnote in Gentry cites to similar decisions from the 2d, 3d, 6th, 7th and 11th Circuits.  I also believe that the 4th, 8th, 9th and 10th Circuits have also formally rejected claims for Booker retroactivity.  I wonder how much longer we will have to wait for the last non-retroactivity shoes to drop from the 1st and DC Circuits.

December 9, 2005 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


December 3, 2005

More academic arguments for Blakely retroactivity

Though the Supreme Court seems to be in no rush to address Blakely or Booker retroactivity (details here) student scholars continue to address the important retroactivity issue.  As previously detailed here, my terrific research assistants has an article in the Ohio State Law Journal entitled "Justice for All: Analyzing Blakely Retroactivity and Ensuring Just Sentences in Pre-Blakely Convictions."  And now I have seen two other similar efforts:

  • The Cardozo Law Review's latest issue includes a student note entitled "Is Blakely v. Washington Retroactive?" by Haifeng Peng.  Available here, the article argues that Blakely should be found retroactive on a number of theroies.

  • The Wisconsin Law Review's forthcoming issue includes a Comment entitled "Reasonable Doubt in the Rear-View Mirror: The Case for Booker/Blakely Retroactivity in the Federal System" by Nic Eichenseer.  I have kindly been given permission to make the article available here: Download blakely_retroactivity_eichenseer_final_wpermission.doc

I wonder what might happen if every defendant subject to unconstitutonal judicial factfinding whose sentence was final before Blakely and Booker were to file habeas petitions with all three of these articles attached. 

December 3, 2005 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


November 10, 2005

Is SCOTUS soon to take up Booker retroactivity?

Over at SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston has this extended post which raises the possibility that the Supreme Court may be seriously contemplating granting cert on a case which raises the issue of Booker's retroactivity.  Lyle's post effectively walks through the basic legal issues, and here is his reason for thnking the Justices may be interested in this matter:

A case directly raising the retroactivity issue, Clark v. U.S. (docket 05-5491), is scheduled to be considered by the Court at its Conference on Nov. 23, according to the Court's public docket. The Court has asked for, and received, a response from the Solicitor General. At least ten other pending cases on the issue have been ready for Court action, but have not been acted upon, apparently awaiting the outcome of the Clark case. Those ten, too, are scheduled for the Nov. 23 Conference, according to the docket.... [T]he fact that other pending cases are being treated as if they were dependent on the outcome shows a heightened level of interest in the issue presented.

I will be (quite) pleasantly surprised if the Court decides to take up this issue, even though I am (quite) certain that all the issues relating to Apprendi, Blakely and Booker retroactivity need to be conclusively resolved ASAP.

Notably, as discussed in a series of recent posts (here and here and here), the Court did recently grant cert in Washington v. Recuenco (docket 05-83) in order to explore whether Blakely errors can be subject to harmless-error analysis.  Perhaps four Justices have decided that this Term is the time to sort out all the "backward-looking" questions about how to handle cases sentenced before Blakely and Booker in violation of the constitutional rules established in those cases.

For a lot more discussion of these issues, check out this category archive which collects my recent posts on Blakely and Booker retroactivity.  In addition, for more thoughtful scholarly coverage of many retroactivity stories and angles, be sure to check out my terrific research assistant's forthcoming Ohio State Law Journal note entitled "Justice for All: Analyzing Blakely Retroactivity and Ensuring Just Sentences in Pre-Blakely Convictions." 

November 10, 2005 at 05:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


November 7, 2005

Fourth Circuit addresses Booker retroactivity

I just got word from a helpful reader that the Fourth Circuit today just released an opinion in US v. Morris, No. 04-7889 (4th Cir. Nov. 7, 2005) (now available here), addressing the retroactivity of Booker.  As I dash off to class, I barely have time to reproduce the opinion's first paragraph and promise commentary later:

Debra Lynn Morris appeals the district court's order denying her 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion for relief from her conviction and sentence. Morris argues that her sentence is unconstitutional under United States v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 738 (2005), because the district court increased her base offense level using facts that she did not admit and that were not found beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury.  We granted a certificate of appealability to consider whether Morris may raise a Booker claim for the first time in her § 2255 motion when her judgment of conviction became final before the Supreme Court decided Booker.  Nine circuit courts of appeals have considered this issue and have held that Booker does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. We agree with these courts, and we therefore affirm the district court's order.

UPDATE: Having now read Morris, I can comment that the decision presents a thorough review of all the standard steps for declaring that Booker is not to apply retroactively.  And, in so doing, the Fourth Circuit makes this statement about Booker that many federal defendants likely find (too) accurate: "the practical net result of Booker is minimal."

November 7, 2005 at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


October 22, 2005

Seeking retroactive Blakely "Justice for All"

There are so many interesting stories and angles to examine when considering pre-Blakely sentences that were indisputably imposed in violation of Blakely's constitutional command.  I am thus proud to be able to provide for downloading a forthcoming article which thoughtfully covers many of these retroactivity stories and angle.  This article, which is authored by one of my terrific research assistants and is soon to appear in the Ohio State Law Journal, is entitled "Justice for All: Analyzing Blakely Retroactivity and Ensuring Just Sentences in Pre-Blakely Convictions."  Here is the article's abstract:

In the months following the Supreme Court's holding in Blakely v. Washington, a countless number of state and federal prisoners were hopeful that their unconstitutionally imposed sentences would be revisited. For prisoners who were not given their Sixth Amendment right at sentencing, the question became — in the words of one prisoner — "Who is going to mount the vigorous and spirited campaign this cause so deserves?"

There are strong arguments to suggest that Blakely's requirement of jury fact-finding using the beyond a reasonable doubt standard of proof should be applied retroactively to cases on collateral review.  Similar to Gideon, Blakely is a watershed rule of criminal procedure that implicates the fundamental fairness and accuracy of a proceeding.  This result, however, is unlikely to occur.  The other two branches of government must be prepared to ensure constitutionally just sentences for pre-Blakely defendants.  The legislative branch should contemplate ways in which to minimize the effect a retroactive holding would have on the judiciary and should also correct the recent statutory interpretation of the habeas statute. The executive branch should use its historic remedy of correcting injustices through the clemency process.  Constitutional justice can be accomplished for pre-Blakely defendants and all three branches of government must begin this dialogue to ensure justice for all.

Download blakely_retroactivity_note_final.pdf

October 22, 2005 at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


October 12, 2005

Lots of Blakely action in Colorado

As detailed in the second half of this list of announcements, yesterday the Colorado Supreme Court granted cert on six different cases raising Blakely issues of various sorts.  Back in May, the Colorado Supreme Court in Lopez issued long and thoughtful opinion applying Blakely to Colorado's presumptive sentencing scheme (basics here, commentary here); yesterday's cert grants address a number of inevitable follow-up issues.  Also, notably, the Colorado Supreme Court issued GVRs based on Lopez in a number of other cases.

Interestingly, one of the cert grants comes in the case of People v. Johnson; as discussed here, in Johnson an intermediate Colorado appellate court held "that Blakely applies retroactively to the date that Apprendi established its new rule."  Here's how the Colorado Supreme Court frames its cert grant in this Johnson case:

Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 126 (2004) is retroactive to the date Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) was announced.

Because the Colorado Supreme Court did such fine work in Lopez, I will be very interested to see how it handles all these Blakely issues and especially the retroactivity issue.  The Court merits credit for taking on all these important follow-up Blakely issues; perhaps it might inspire SCOTUS to follow suit.

October 12, 2005 at 11:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


September 28, 2005

Sixth Circuit rejects effort to use mandate recall to achieve Booker retroactivity

Today, in US v. Saikaly, No. 01-4001 (6th Cir. Sept. 28, 2005) (available here), the Sixth Circuit issued an order which rejects a defendant's effort to use a motion to recall the mandate to have Booker applied to a case that became final in early 2004.  Here is the heart of the Sixth Circuit's discussion:

The defendant [asks] this court to recall its mandate and to reopen his prior appeal to this court, a procedural maneuver that would permit him to raise a Booker claim as part of that appeal.  Although courts of appeals have the inherent authority to recall a mandate, such power should only be exercised in extraordinary circumstances because of the profound interests in repose attached to a court of appeals mandate....

Although this court has granted motions to recall the mandate in cases which were not yet final at the time the motion was filed, other courts of appeals which have addressed similar motions based upon Booker (or the earlier decisions in Apprendi and Blakely) have found no extraordinary circumstances warranting the recall of a mandate issued in a prior (and final) direct appeal. These decisions hold that the proper remedy to attack a sentence in a final criminal proceeding lies under § 2255, and the fact that such remedy is no longer available does not warrant a recall of the mandate. [Cites to cases from the 1st, 2d, 7th, and 10th Circuits.]

These decisions deny any avenue of relief under Booker to defendants whose direct appeals were final at the time that decision was rendered.  Although the defendant may argue that there is an element of unfairness in this result, it is the same element found in any Supreme Court decision which announces a new rule applicable to criminal defendants with pending prosecutions or appeals, but which is not made retroactive to defendants whose cases are final. The incremental change in the law as evidenced by Apprendi, Blakely, and Booker simply is not the type of unforeseen contingency which warrants recall of the mandate to permit yet another round of appellate review.

Significantly, this Saikaly ruling does not mention the Ninth Circuit's recent ruling in Crawford which seemed to permit using motions to recall the mandate as a means to have Booker applied to cases that had become final before January 2005.  As explained here and here, the Ninth Circuit's Crawford decision indicated that some defendants may obtain a form of what I have called "equitable Booker retroactivity" by moving to recall the mandate and arguing that "the facts of their individual cases" constitute "extraordinary circumstances" justifying resentencing. 

September 28, 2005 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


September 16, 2005

Ninth Circuit officially holds Booker not retroactive

Back in July, though its ruling in Schardt v. Payne, No. 02-36164 (9th Cir. July 8, 2005) (discussed here), the Ninth Circuit decided that Blakely is not to be applied retroactively.  Today, in US v. Cruz, No. 03-35873 (9th Cir. Sept. 16, 2005) (available here), the other shoe dropped:

This appeal requires us to decide whether United States v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 738 (2005), applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. We hold that Booker does not apply retroactively to convictions that became final prior to its publication.

Despite this (unsurprising) ruling in Cruz, as explained here and here, the Ninth Circuit's earlier decision in the Crawford case may allow some defendants in the Ninth Circuit to obtain a form of what I have called "equitable Booker retroactivity" by moving to recall the mandate and arguing that "the facts of their individual cases" constitute "extraordinary circumstances" justifying resentencing.

September 16, 2005 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


August 30, 2005

In praise of Okai and its burden of proof insights

In this post praising some notable recent district court decisions, I spotlighted US v. Okai, 2005 WL 2042301 (D. Neb. Aug. 22, 2005), in which Judge Joseph Bataillon continues the strong work on due process and burdens of proof that he started in US v. Huerta-Rodriguez right after Booker (details here).  I have now had a chance to give Okai a close read, and its many Booker and burden-of-proof insights merit additional attention. 

Everyone working in the federal sentencing trenches should be sure to give Okai (which I now am able to provide for download below) a full read ASAP.  Among the passages that garnered my attention is the following section that suggests that the burden-of-proof aspects of Apprendi and Blakely merit retroactive application:

Although a misallocation of factfinding responsibility (judge versus jury) does not warrant retroactive application, Schriro, 124 S. Ct. at 2523, the same cannot be said for the retroactivity of application of a preponderance of evidence standard as opposed to a reasonable doubt standard.  See Hankerson v. North Carolina, 432 U.S. 233 (1977) (giving retroactive effect to rule requiring proof of all elements of crime beyond a reasonable doubt and voiding presumptions that shift the burden of proof to defendant); Ivan v. City of New York, 407 U.S. 203, 205 (1972) (holding that the purpose of a reasonable doubt standard is "to overcome an aspect of a criminal trial that impairs the truth-finding function, and Winship is thus to be given complete retroactive effect"). Application of a lower standard of proof may be an error that significantly affects factfinding accuracy and undermines society's confidence in the result of the trial. See Schiro, 128 S. Ct. at 2523.

Download bataillon_okai_opinion.pdf

August 30, 2005 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


August 29, 2005

More on mandate recalls in the Ninth Circuit

Over at the Ninth Circuit Blog, Steve Kalar has this post discussing the recent important decision in US v. Crawford in which  a panel of the Ninth Circuit recalled the mandate and order resentencing in a case that apparently became final before Booker.  As I explained in this post, the Crawford decision seems to adopt what I would describe as a policy of equitable Booker retroactivity.  Here's a bit of Steve's take:

Does Crawford stand for the proposition that a defendant can seek relief through recalling the mandate even when there is a habeas timing bar?  The order doesn't say so, but that's a fair between-the-line reading....

This order may signal a habeas loophole for the right case.  Has a client blown ADEPA time limits? Doesn't seem to have bothered the Crawford panel — and the client who will be resentenced doesn't care if his relief came from habeas review or a recall of the mandate.

Steve also notes that the "recall the mandate" approach "has a colorful history" in the Ninth Circuit: "The last time the Ninth tried this approach it pitted the Circuit against the Supreme Court, and sparked a legendary intellectual battle between Judge Reinhardt and Judge Kozinski."

August 29, 2005 at 04:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


August 24, 2005

Is the Ninth Circuit adopting a policy of equitable Booker retroactivity?

As regular readers know, the federal circuits have consistently held that neither Blakely or Booker are to be applied retroactively.  And the Ninth Circuit, which had declared Ring retroactive before being reversed by the Supreme Court, last month in Schardt v. Payne, No. 02-36164 (9th Cir. July 8, 2005), ruled that Blakely is not retroactive with language suggesting Booker is not either.

But today, in a little order in US v. Crawford, No. 03-30263 (9th Cir. Aug. 24, 2005) (available here), a panel of the Ninth Circuit, by recalling the mandate and ordering resentencing in a case that apparently became final before Booker, seems to be adopting what I would describe as a policy of equitable Booker retroactivity.  Here is the heart of the Crawford order (with cites omitted):

This case involves "extraordinary circumstances" sufficient to justify our recall of the mandate because: (1) the sentencing judge expressed explicit reservations on the record about the sentence required under the previously mandatory Sentencing Guidelines; and (2) the Supreme Court's decision in Blakely foreshadowing its holding in Booker was rendered before the mandate issued.  Accordingly, we recall the mandate, vacate the sentence, and remand to the district court for resentencing pursuant to Booker.

Importantly, the Crawford order also includes this tantalizing footnote:

Our decision in United States v. King, Nos. 99-10478, 01-10720 (9th Cir. August 16, 2005) (per curiam) [available here], where we addressed Booker in denying the defendant's motion to recall the mandate, is distinguishable because neither of the special circumstances that we highlight in Crawford's case were present in King.  At the same time, however, in stressing that our decision here rests on both the sentencing judge's expressed misgivings about the sentence required by the mandatory Guidelines as well as the relative timing of the Supreme Court's Blakely decision and the termination of our appellate jurisdiction, we do not suggest that these same elements must always be present in order for a mandate to be recalled.  Rather future panels will necessarily evaluate the existence of "extraordinary circumstances" warranting the recall of a mandate based on the facts of their individual cases.

The final two sentences of this footnote suggest to me that this panel of the Ninth Circuit is endorsing what I am calling a policy of equitable Booker retroactivity.  Apparently, even for cases with "final" sentences at the time of Booker, the door is (wide?) open in the Ninth Circuit for defendants to move to have the mandate recalled by arguing that "the facts of their individual cases" constitute "extraordinary circumstances" justifying resentencing. 

Because I am not an expert in Ninth Circuit practice, perhaps I am over-reading Crawford.  If this is so, I hope readers in the comments or the smart folks at the Ninth Circuit Blog will help set me straight.  But if I understand Crawford correctly, this seems like an extraordinarily important little order (and one that seems likely to get the attention of the government and other Ninth Circuit judges).

August 24, 2005 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack


August 16, 2005

Interesting dissenting discussion of Blakely retroactivity

A consistently helpful reader has pointed me to interesting comments concerning Blakely's retroactivity in a recent dissent from the Ninth Circuit's refusal to rehear, en banc, a panel decision in Bockting v. Bayer that Crawford is entitled to retroactive application.  Authored by Judge O'Scannlain and joined by eight other active judges, this dissent (available here) complained that Blakely is far more fundamental and important to accuracy concerns than Crawford, and yet Blakely was recently held by the Ninth Circuit not to apply retroactively:

Crawford's rule does less to decrease the chance of an inaccurate conviction than many rules that have been held not to apply retroactively. Most recently, in Schardt v. Payne, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 13569 (9th Cir. 2005), we refused to give retroactive effect to Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004), which invalidated state sentencing guidelines that increased a defendant's sentence based on facts found by a judge by a mere preponderance of the evidence. The application of a mere preponderance standard instead of the reasonable-doubt standard required by Blakely surely increases the likelihood of inaccurate criminal punishment more than the admission of evidence under the Roberts test did. [FOOTNOTE 2] Cf. Ivan V. v. City of New York, 407 U.S. 203, 204 (1972) (per curiam) ("[T]he reasonable-doubt standard is a prime instrument for reducing the risk of convictions resting on factual error." (quoting In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 363-64 (1970)); id. at 205 ("[T]he major purpose of the constitutional standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt announced in Winship was to overcome an aspect of a criminal trial that substantially impairs the truth-finding function, and Winship is thus to be given complete retroactive effect.").  If even the standard-of-proof aspect of Blakely does not satisfy the Teague test, I do not see how Crawford can do so.

[FOOTNOTE 2] Of course, Blakely relates to the accuracy of sentences, not underlying convictions. See United States v. Sanchez-Cervantes, 282 F.3d 664, 671 (9th Cir. 2002) (relying, in part, on that difference in holding Apprendi not to apply retroactively).  I do not see how the difference can be material, though, when the point of Blakely and the entire line of jurisprudence stemming from Apprendi is precisely that sentencing factors must be treated as elements of a crime when they increase the defendant's maximum sentence. Moreover, the Supreme Court has not distinguished between sentences and convictions when applying Teague; rather, it has implied that a watershed rule could be retroactive under Teague if it "seriously diminish[ed] the likelihood of obtaining an accurate determination in [a] sentencing proceeding." Graham v. Collins, 506 U.S. 461 (1993) (first alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

August 16, 2005 at 05:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


July 8, 2005

Ninth Circuit says Blakely not retroactive

The Ninth Circuit, which has a reputation of being the most defendant-friendly federal circuit, today ruled in Schardt v. Payne, No. 02-36164 (9th Cir. July 8, 2005) (available here), that Blakely is not to be applied retroactively.  Especially since the Ninth was the circuit which had declared Ring retroactive (a ruling subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court), this decision has to be seen as a major blow to all those hoping for retroactive Blakely relief.  Here is the decision's opening paragraph:

We must decide in this matter the novel question whether a Washington state prisoner may challenge the validity of his sentence retroactively on the ground that the trial court based its sentencing decision on facts that were not found to be true by a jury in violation of the constitutional principle subsequently announced by the United States Supreme Court in Blakely v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 2531 (2004). We conclude that Blakely does not apply retroactively to convictions that became final prior to its publication.  We also hold that the petitioner has failed to demonstrate that he was ineffectively represented by his trial counsel.

July 8, 2005 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


June 17, 2005

Washington Supreme Court declares Blakely not retroactive

As detailed in this article, on Thursday the Washington Supreme Court concluded in State v. Evans, No. 74851-9 (Wash. June 16, 2005) that "neither Apprendi nor Blakely applies retroactively on collateral review to convictions that were final when Blakely was announced."  The Court's unanimous ruling can be accessed at this link, and a brief concurrence by Justice Sanders can be accessed at this link.

The decision in Evans covers now familiar retroactivity ground, relying heavily on Schriro and otherwise rejecting arguments, including a claim based on state law, which might provide a basis for giving some retroactive application to Blakely.  And Justice Sanders' one paragraph concurrence makes this observation about the current state of retroactive affairs:

As a matter of logic and principle, I find it difficult to accept one's constitutional right to a jury trial on sentencing factors may be abridged, without remedy, when the issue is first raised based on new case law in the context of a personal restraint petition.   But a slim majority (5-4) of the United States Supreme Court in Schriro v. Summerlin, 124 S. Ct. 2519, 159 L. Ed. 2d 442 (2004), seems to say exactly that.  What can I do but concur in the decision of our majority?

UPDATE: Additional news coverage of the Evans decision is here and here.

June 17, 2005 at 01:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


June 2, 2005

Florida Supreme Court allows capital jury override despite Ring

A helpful reader pointed me to an interesting death penalty decision, noted here by Abstract Appeal, in which the Florida Supreme Court holds that Ring does not preclude a trial judge under Florida's capital statutes from overriding a jury's recommendation of life imprisonment to sentence a defendant to death.  Though the decision in Marshall v. Crosby, No. 02-420 (Fla. May 26, 2005) (available here), indicates that the Florida Supreme Court has previously rejected a series of challenges based on Ring, I get the impression that this is the first case considered by the court in which the sentencing judge imposed a death sentence over a jury recommendation of life.

Though all aspects of Marshall are interesting, a particularly notable aspect of the majority's opinion is its reliance on the prior conviction exception as one of many alernative grounds for its holding.  And the dissent by Justice Anstead presents a particularly thorough and powerful set of arguments against the constitutionality of Florida's jury override procedure in the wake of Ring.  And since Justice Anstead's dissentin Marshall has the best rhetoric, I'll quote from that opinion:

Today, we approve a practice that has now been outlawed in the United States by this nation's highest court, the imposition of the death penalty by a single judge in the face of a jury finding that the circumstances of the case do not support a sentence of death and require a life sentence. Because this outcome essentially allows a trial judge to ignore a jury's actions and direct a verdict and judgment for death in favor of the State, it is patently offensive to our constitutional notions of due process and the right to a jury trial....

Clearly, Ring was a decision meant to increase the consistency and accuracy of identifying those cases where the death penalty is warranted by requiring the facts necessary to impose the death sentence to be found by the jury.  The Court's decision today flies directly in the face of the Sixth Amendment and the Supreme Court's decision in Ring. Rather than embrace the Sixth Amendment's protections and look for ways in which the role of the jury could be modified to bring Florida into line with the Supreme Court's prevailing constitutional law, the majority has effectively removed the jury from the death penalty equation. This is a sad day for constitutional law and justice in the State of Florida.

June 2, 2005 at 01:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


May 18, 2005

Third Circuit joins non-retroactivity bandwagon

The Third Circuit on Tuesday in Lloyd v. US, No. 04-3549 (3d Cir. May 17, 2005) (available here) formally joined other circuits in ruling that "the rule of law announced in Booker" does not apply retroactively "to prisoners who were in the initial § 2255 motion stage as of the date that Booker issued."  Here are some key passages from the Lloyd decision's notable, though unsurprising, retroactivity conclusions:

Every court of appeals to have considered the issue has concluded that, whether denominated as the "Blakely rule" or the "Booker rule," that rule was "new."... Every federal court of appeals to have considered whether Booker's new rule constituted a "watershed rule" that would satisfy Teague's second exception has held that it does not and, thus, has held that Booker does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review.  We join those courts....

It would be one thing if we were only dealing with Justice Stevens's opinion in Booker, which held the Federal Sentencing Guidelines unconstitutional because their mandatory nature required judges to find facts that increased sentences based on a preponderance of the evidence.  But in the opinion authored by Justice Breyer, the unconstitutionality of the Guidelines was remedied by excising the provision, at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b)(1), that made their application mandatory. By creating an advisory federal sentencing regime, the Booker Court did not announce a new rule of criminal procedure that significantly increases the "certitude" or "accuracy" of the sentencing process.  As the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit put it, Booker was not a "'watershed' change that fundamentally improves the accuracy of the criminal process" because defendants' sentences "would be determined in the same way if they were sentenced today; the only change would be the degree of flexibility judges would enjoy in applying the guideline system."

May 18, 2005 at 01:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


May 4, 2005

The waiting is the hardest part...

Over at SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein has this fascinating post previewing the Supreme Court's next term; he reports that for the 2005 Term, based on cert. grants this year, the "October sitting (8 arguments) and November sitting (12 arguments) are both full."  This would seem to mean that, unless expedited briefing is scheduled, the earliest that the Supreme Court could hear a Blakely or Booker case is December 2005, and thus we should not expect any clarifying Blakely or Booker decisions until probably at least March 2006.

I have railed in prior posts here and here about the Supreme Court's expenditure of much time and energy on death penalty cases when there are so many post-Blakely and post-Booker questions that are more pressing and of much greater national import.  But rather than continue to curse the SCOTUS darkness, let me try to light a certiorari candle by developing an annotated list, roughly in order of importance, of the Blakely/Booker issues that I think most urgently merit the Supreme Court's attention:

1.  The validity and scope of the "prior conviction" exception.  I spotlighted this issue soon after Blakely (consider this post last August), and the High Court's work in Shepard has only muddied these issues more. 

2.  The retroactive application of Apprendi, Blakely and BookerThough nearly all lower courts have ruled against retroactivity (with the exception of the Colorado decision which found Blakely retroactive to Apprendi), retroactivity issues will be litigated over and over and over again in the lower courts until the Supreme Court definitively rules.

3.  Booker pipelines issues such as plain error.  Unlike retroactivity issues, Booker pipelines issues are producing remarkable circuit splits.  But, also unlike retroactivity issues, Booker pipeline issues will eventually fade away even without a definitive Supreme Court ruling.  This is why I wonder, as I discussed here and here, if the High Court will consider these issues cert. worthy.

4.  Blakely's applicability to restitution and other non-prison sentences.  Taken to its logical extreme, Blakely's statement that "every defendant has the right to insist that the prosecutor prove to a jury all facts legally essential to the punishment" could impact a lot more than sentencing within guideline systems.  Most lower courts are limiting Blakely's reach, but these are the same courts that sought (incorrectly) to limit Apprendi before Blakely came along.

I could go on, but I am already exhausted and I have not even mentioned the reconsideration of the Harris rule for mandatory minimums (which many believe cannot stand in the wake of Blakely).  Also, whether on direct appeal or through habeas actions, at some point SCOTUS will likely need to consider whether and how Blakely applies to some unique state guidelines systems.  And, not to be overlooked, if Congress were to pass a constitutionally questionable Booker fix (such as the proposed HR 1528), a whole new set of constitutional questions in need of urgent resolution could emerge.

May 4, 2005 at 11:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


May 2, 2005

Florida Supreme Court declares Apprendi is not to apply retroactively

I have been so preoccupied of late with federal sentencing stories, I have not reported on some interesting recent state cases.  Perhaps the most notable of the bunch is the decision by the Supreme Court of Florida in Hughes v. Florida, No. SC02-2247 (Fla. Apr. 28, 2005) (available here), which declares, by a 5-2 vote, that "that Apprendi does not apply retroactively." 

Hughes is a thoughtful decision all around, with the dissenters making an interesting argument for retroactivity based on the particulars of Florida law.  But the majority is not convinced, and in the majority's opinion there is this particularly informative account of the state of Apprendi retroactivity nationwide:

We also find it persuasive that all but one of the federal courts of appeals have expressly considered the issue, albeit under a different retroactivity analysis, and not one has held Apprendi to apply retroactively. Several state courts also have considered the issue, and again not one has held Apprendi to apply retroactively.  Finally, the United States Supreme Court has held that Ring, which applied Apprendi in the death penalty context, does not apply retroactively.

UPDATE: Michael Ausbrook at INCourts has this extended post discussing Hughes and retroactivity and other related issues more generally.

May 2, 2005 at 08:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


April 11, 2005

The human face of retroactivity

I receive an enormous amount of e-mail and snail mail from prisoners and defendants and their families.  I typically cannot find time to read most of this correspondence, let alone respond thoughtfully.  But this mail serves as a constant and valuable reminder of the human face of all the issues covered on this blog.

This weekend I received a prisoner letter via e-mail that was particularly compelling in its discussion of the human side of retroactivity.  I obtained permission  from the author to share this letter, and it can be downloaded below.  I most recently posted here about the doctrine of retroactivity, but this letter spotlights the humanity of retroactivity.

Download prisoner_retroactivity_plea.doc

April 11, 2005 at 12:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


April 9, 2005

Retroactivity contrasts and contentions

As noted by Appellate Law & Practice here, the Second Circuit yesterday in Guzman v. United States, No. 03-2446 (2d Cir. Apr. 8, 2005) (available here), expressly held that Booker "does not apply to cases on collateral review where the defendant's conviction was final as of January 12, 2005, the date that Booker issued."  This ruling makes a total of five circuits, as detailed here,  that have spoken to this issue — the 2d, 6th, 7th, 10th and 11th — and all five have declared Booker is not applicable to cases which became final before the decision.

But the story of retroactivity is much more dynamic than this pattern of federal circuit decisions might suggest.  As spotlighted here, this past week a Colorado appellate court in Johnson decided that "[b]ecause Blakely explains and clarifies Apprendi, we apply it retroactively to defendant's sentence, which was imposed after Apprendi was announced."  That is, the Colorado court has concluded that Blakely is not a new rule, but rather an application of Apprendi that should be applicable to all cases not yet final in June 2000 when Apprendi was decided.

Moreover, despite the fact that no other courts, to my knowledge, have yet expressly declared Blakely or Booker retroactive, there are a number of interesting arguments being developed to support retroactivity claims.  As noted previously here, a recent Harvard Law Review note, Rethinking Retroactivity, 118 Harvard Law Review 1642 (2005), argues that the Supreme Court's decision in Schriro, which most lower courts cite to find against retroactivity, actually supports the retroactive application of Apprendi's reasonable doubt holding.  A lawyer from New Jersey recently sent me a letter brief, which can be downloaded below, that builds on this article to argue that "proper application of the retroactivity test of Teague v. Lane requires retroactivity of Apprendi."

Taking a different tack, another lawyer operating in federal court has sent me a motion which argues more broadly that Teague v. Lane is simply not applicable to the question of Booker's retroactive application.  That motion, which can also be downloaded below, spotlights that "the U.S. Supreme Court has never held that Teague v. Lane is applicable, either in its entirety or in part, to federal inmate's petitions under § 2255."

I have posted a lot previously about these and related retroactivity issues, and below I have linked some of my major pre-Booker posts discussing retroactivity.  Also, all my more recent posts on this topic are collected at this link.

Download nj_apprendi_retroactivity_letter.pdf

Download teague_not_applicable_2255memomotion.pdf

April 9, 2005 at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


April 8, 2005

Colorado court says Blakely retroactive to Apprendi

Providing perhaps the biggest development in a big week, I just got news that yesterday the Colorado Court of Appeals in People v. Johnson, No. 03CA2339 (col. App. Apr. 7, 2005) (available here) concluded "that Blakely applies retroactively to the date that Apprendi established its new rule."  Here's the court's analysis:

In People v. Bradbury, 68 P.3d 494 (Colo. App. 2002), a division of this court concluded that Apprendi did not apply retroactively because it "established a new rule" and "imposed a new obligation" upon trial courts.  People v. Bradbury, supra, 68 P.3d at 497. 

We adopt the reasoning in Bradbury and conclude that because Apprendi established a new rule which had the effect of overriding a widespread practice of allowing judges to decide facts used to aggravate sentences, Blakely's interpretation of that rule must necessarily apply retroactively to the date the rule was established.  Writing for the majority in Blakely, Justice Scalia clearly limited the holding back to the date of Apprendi when he wrote: "the relevant 'statutory maximum' is not the maximum sentence a judge may impose after finding additional facts, but the maximum he may impose without any additional findings." Blakely, supra, 124 S.Ct. at 2537.

Because Blakely explains and clarifies Apprendi, we apply it retroactively to defendant's sentence, which was imposed after Apprendi was announced.  We note at least two federal cases which have held that Blakely does not apply retroactively to collateral attacks against convictions. See, e.g., In re Dean, 375 F.3d 1287, 1290 (11th Cir. 2004); United States v. Stoltz, 325 F. Supp. 2d 982, 987 (D. Minn. 2004). In concluding that retroactive application should be made here, we nevertheless do not apply Blakely to collateral attacks against convictions unless those convictions postdated ApprendiPeople v. Dunlap (Colo. App. No. 01CA1082, Sept. 9, 2004).

April 8, 2005 at 06:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


March 24, 2005

A potent argument for Apprendi's retroactivity

Because they all reach the same conclusion in the same basic way, I have not often noted the many district court rulings that Booker (or Blakely or Apprendi) is not to be applied retroactively to final cases.  Also, I am often a bit peeved when some of these cases summarily rely on Schriro to support the non-retroactivity conclusion even though, as explained here many months ago, Schriro only concerned retroactive application of the jury right and not the application of the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard.

These matters issue got my attention recently after I was alerted to a Note in the March 2005 issue of the Harvard Law Review which thoughtfully argues not only that "Apprendi's reasonable doubt holding demands retroactive application," but also that the holding in Schriro actually supports the retroactivity of Apprendi's reasonable doubt holding.  See Rethinking Retroactivity, 118 Harvard Law Review 1642 (2005).

Of course, prisoners with final convictions need to hope this Note's potent arguments capture the attention of some courts.  Ever biased by my Gannett House days, I close by suggesting that the power of a Harvard Law Review Note should not be understated.  After all, District Judge Young's opinion in Green, which presaged Blakely (details here), relied heavily on a HLR Note, and Justice Breyer cited an HLR comment on Blakely at the tail end of his Booker dissent.

March 24, 2005 at 01:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack


March 9, 2005

Tenth Circuit addresses Blakely retroactivity

Standing out among other circuit dispositions this week is the Tenth Circuit's discussion of Blakely's retroactivity in US v. Price, 2005 WL 535361 (10th Cir. Mar 08, 2005).  The petitioner in Price had failed on his habeas claim in the wake of Blakely, but he sought rehearing after Booker, and the Tenth Circuit denies the rehearing petition with an opinion that provides an extended explanation for why "Blakely does not apply retroactively to convictions that were already final at the time the Court decided Blakely, June 24, 2004."

The Tenth Circuit thus becomes, I believe, the third circuit to address directly Blakely/Booker retroactivity after Booker, joining the Seventh Circuit in McReynolds and the Sixth Circuit in Humphress.  Unlike the plain-error splits for cases still on direct appeal, the circuits have been uniform to date in rejecting Blakely/Booker challenges in cases that have become final.

UPDATE: As Adam kindly notes in the comments to this post and as another fine reader has brought to my attention, I keep forgetting that the Eleventh Circuit in Varela has also ruled that that Blakely and Booker are not retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.  So, we have four circuits that have officially spoken on this issue — the 6th, 7th, 10th and 11th — and I suspect that it is only a matter of time before the other eight follow suit.

March 9, 2005 at 06:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


March 6, 2005

Handling Blakely/Booker habeas headaches

In this post, I noted the judiciary's Booker-inspired request for $91.3 million in supplemental funding for the current fiscal year, and spotlighted how in this memo the Judicial Conference details its views of the cost impact of Booker.  Though there are many notable features of the memo, I found especially intriguing this estimate of number of possible federal habeas actions in the wake of Booker:

It is estimated that 12,000 to 18,000 new filings could be lodged under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, attacking an original sentence and asking the district court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence.  These filing estimates are based on the Bureau of Prisons population, reduced for the inmates who already received reduced sentences under 5K1.1 (substantial assistance departure), inmates with less than six months to serve, and inmates who received no enhancements.

If the 12,000 to 18,000 estimate is supposed to quantify the number of inmates who might seek habeas relief, this number seems quite low.  There are roughly 180,000 persons in federal prison and perhaps, I would guess, another 100,000 on probation or supervised release.  And even federal convicts who received a 5K1.1 departure, or have less than six months to serve, or received no enhancements based on judicial fact-finding may have a sound legal reason to try to take advantage of the Booker to reduce the time they are subject to federal supervision.  That said, it is also possible, especially if the circuits continue to hold that Booker is not retroactive (as did the Seventh in McReynolds and the Sixth in Humphress), that a much smaller universe of prisoners will actually file federal habeas actions. 

Of course, none of this head-counting considers the (potentially much larger) universe of state defendants who are serving sentences rendered constitutionally problematic by Blakely who may file federal habeas actions if/when they do not get relief from state courts.  As detailed here and here, for example, the Hawaiian state and federal courts are now in a habeas tussle over Apprendi's applicability to Hawaii's sentencing laws.

Habeas doctrines and numbers aside, a serious commitment to Constitutional principles suggests, as I have argued here and here and here, that all three branches (and not just courts) should be concerned about the potential injustice to certain defendants who, sentenced in a manner now deemed unconstitutional, may be serving longer sentences than they legally should.  I continue to think, as suggested long ago in this post, that justice would be served by developing some sort of administrative mechanism for sorting, and considering remedies for, constitutionally problematic sentences that are now final (and perhaps barring the habeas courthouse door to prisoners until they seek relief through such an administrative mechanism).

March 6, 2005 at 06:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


February 25, 2005

Sixth Circuit addresses retroactivity

Continuing to provide a daily supply of Booker rulings, the Sixth Circuit today in Humphress v. US, No. 03-5951 (6th Cir. Feb 25, 2005) (available here), issued its first opinion on retroactivity.  The Sixth Circuit in Humphress holds that Booker "does not apply retroactively to cases already final on direct review."  As has been common in many such rulings, the Sixth Circuit relies heavily on the death penalty case Schriro, which concluded Ring was not retroactive. "Schriro's reasoning applies with equal force to Booker," says the Sixth Circuit (although the court does not directly confront the fact that Schriro did not deal with the burden of proof issues, as detailed here).

The Sixth Circuit also had another (unpublished) plain error ruling today with US v. Cook, No. 02-1405 (6th Cir. Feb. 25, 2005) (available here).  As is the Sixth Circuit's recent pattern, in Cook the court finds plain error and orders a remand for resentencing based on Booker.

February 25, 2005 at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack


February 10, 2005

Judge Cassell speaks on retroactivity

I have generally avoided reporting on the significant number of district court decisions that have denied efforts by defendants to raise Blakely/Booker issues through habeas actions.  But I did spotlight Judge Panner's Siegelbaum opinion, since it provided perhaps a glimmer of hope on retroactivity, and today I am inclined to spotlight Judge Cassell's effort in Rucker v. US, Case No. 2:04-CV-00914PGC (D. Utah Feb. 10, 2005) (available here) because of its thoroughness and notable dicta.

Not suprisingly, Judge Cassell, in line with the Seventh Circuit's work in McReynolds, concludes that (1) the "approach to sentencing required by the Blakely and Booker decisions is a new rule," (2) "it is a procedural rule about the allocation of fact-finding power between judge and jury and about proof beyond a reasonable doubt," (3) the "Blakely/Booker rule does not implicate fundamental fairness," and thus "the Blakely/Booker rule does not apply retroactively to Mr. Rucker (and others whose convictions became final before Blakely)."

February 10, 2005 at 04:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


February 2, 2005

The 7th Circuit speaks on retroactivity!!

With thanks to readers, I now have news that the Seventh Circuit has spoken directly to the issue of Booker's retroactivity in McReynolds v. US, 04-2520 (7th Cir. Feb. 2, 2005) (available here), and many prisoners are not going to like the news.  In an opinion authored by Judge Easterbrook, the Seventh Circuit says Booker is not to be applied retroactively to cases which became final (meaning all direct appeals were concluded) before January 12, 2005.  Here's some of the key language:

Although the Supreme Court did not address the retroactivity question in Booker, its decision in Schriro v. Summerlin, 124 S. Ct. 2519 (2004), is all but conclusive on the point.  Summerlin held that Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002) — which, like Booker, applied Apprendi's principles to a particular subject — is not retroactive on collateral review....

We held in Curtis v. United States, 294 F.3d 841, 843 (7th Cir. 2002), that Apprendi does not apply retroactively on collateral review, because it "is concerned with the identity of the decisionmaker, and the quantum of evidence required for a sentence, rather than with what primary conduct is unlawful". That, too, is equally true of Booker. No conduct that was forbidden before Booker is permitted today; no maximum available sentence has been reduced....

The remedial portion of Booker drives the point home.... District judges must continue to follow their approach as guidelines, with appellate review to determine whether that task has been carried out reasonably. No primary conduct has been made lawful, and none of the many factors that affect sentences under the Sentencing Guidelines has been declared invalid....

What is more, Booker does not in the end move any decision from judge to jury, or change the burden of persuasion.  The remedial portion of Booker held that decisions about sentencing factors will continue to be made by judges, on the preponderance of the evidence, an approach that comports with the sixth amendment so long as the guideline system has some flexibility in application.  As a practical matter, then, petitioners' sentences would be determined in the same way if they were sentenced today; the only change would be the degree of flexibility judges would enjoy in applying the guideline system. That is not a "watershed" change that fundamentally improves the accuracy of the criminal process.

We conclude, then, that Booker does not apply retroactively to criminal cases that became final before its release on January 12, 2005.  That date, rather than June 24, 2004, on which Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004), came down, is the appropriate dividing line; Blakely reserved decision about the status of the federal Sentencing Guidelines, so Booker itself represents the establishment of a new rule about the federal system.

February 2, 2005 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack


January 24, 2005

Judge Panner works through Booker's retroactivity

In an opinion available for download below, US v. Siegelbaum, CR No. 02-179-01-PA (D. Or. Jan. 24, 2005), Senior US District Judge Owen Panner, previously famed for having found the federal guidelines structurally invalid due to the Feeney Amendment (details here), works thoughtfully through Booker's potential retroactivity.  According to the summary of the decision I received from a reader, Judge Panner concluded that:

1. The district court may hear a first-time § 2255 motion now, without waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether Blakely/Booker are retroactive. [Whether a successive § 2255 motion may be heard now is a different question, governed by different statutory language].

2. The remedy announced in Blakely/Booker (advisory guidelines) must not be confused with the constitutional violation (in specified circumstances, sentence may be enhanced only if essential facts are admitted by defendant or found by jury applying reasonable doubt standard). The latter is the "rule" for retroactivity purposes.

3. The rule announced in Blakely/Booker is a new procedural rule.

4. Existing precedent does not definitively answer whether this new rule should be applied retroactively. No inference can be drawn from the failure to discuss this issue in Booker, as the cases before the Court involved direct appeals. Shriro held that a misallocation of factfinding responsibility (judge versus jury) does not warrant retroactive application, but did not decide whether application of a preponderance standard, instead of a reasonable doubt standard, is an error that requires retroactive relief.  Three pre-Teague cases suggest it may be, because the lesser standard of proof can significantly affect factfinding accuracy and society's confidence in the result.

5. Even if Blakely/Booker were entitled to retroactive application, Siegelbaum is not entitled to relief. The principles animating the retroactivity analysis would require that relief be limited to persons presently serving a sentence that was enhanced on the basis of contested facts not found beyond a reasonable doubt or admitted as part of the plea bargain. Only if a defendant actually disputed the facts that resulted in the sentence enhancement, and the court decided the matter against him, can the defendant show that he may have been prejudiced by application of the wrong standard of proof. Even then, a defendant would not necessarily be entitled to a reduced sentence. Arguably, he is entitled only to have the sentencing facts adjudicated under the proper standard of proof. Such questions must await another day, as Siegelbaum's petition can be resolved on other grounds.

6. Siegelbaum's guidelines range was enhanced 15 levels above the base offense level of conviction. However, he never contested the sentence enhancements, or the facts on which those enhancements were premised. He even stipulated to the sentence that was imposed. In return, the government agreed to dismiss twelve other counts against him, and to forego bringing additional charges. Siegelbaum has suffered no injustice. He received the sentence for which he bargained. Siegelbaum is not entitled to relief.

Download siegelbaum_opinion_denying_2255_motion.pdf

January 24, 2005 at 08:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack


January 13, 2005

Quick retroactivity thoughts

Many are asking, for understandable reasons, about the prospect of Booker's retroactive application. The simple answer is that Booker does not speak to the question, and thus some future case (soon?) will have to make a definitive ruling on this issue. However, as a number of commentators have already noted, the dueling opinions for the Court seem to provide conflicting tea leaves to read.

Justice Stevens' opinion for the Court suggests the Court is just "reaffirm[ing] our holding in Apprendi" which might suggest application back to 2000, while Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court speaks of Booker as if it is a "new rule" only applicable to pending cases.  Of course, even if Booker is a new rule, arguments can (and surely will) be made that this new rule fits into one of Teague's exceptions so as to be retroactive.  But, as others like TalkLeft here have suggested, offenders whose convictions and sentences are final should not find much that is encouraging in Booker. And, especially since the lower courts have already been consistently resisting claims that Apprendi and/or Blakely are retroactive, I forecast a lot of litigation from, and little relief for, prisoners with final convictions.

But, as I have suggested here and here, retroactivity should not be a concern only of the courts. All branches of government pledge commitment to the US Constitution, and thus all branches of government should be concerned if a large number of defendants have been unconstitutionally sentenced. Indeed, I think executive and legislative officials, as well as the US Sentencing Commission, have a constitutional responsibility to at least consider possible remedies for already-sentenced defendants who, because of judicial retroactivity doctrines, may not get relief in the courts. But this is true ivory tower wishful thinking: I would be truly shocked if anyone talks at all about providing relief for old cases (beyond what courts might order), even though in a perfect world this would be a serious topic for conversation.

January 13, 2005 at 06:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack


December 17, 2004

Hawaii Apprendi habeas decision

Thanks to a friend in Hawaii, I can now provide for downloading the Hawaii opinion, previously noted here, of US District Judge Susan Oki Mollway in Kaua v. Frank, Civ. No. 03-00432 (D. Haw. Dec. 9, 2004), in which the defendant was granted a reduction of a state sentence to 20 years.  Here's the opening paragraph:

This § 2254 petition presents the question of whether Kaua's extended sentence of incarceration violates Apprendi. This court concludes that Kaua's extended sentence clearly violates Apprendi, and that the extended sentence was based on an unreasonable application of Apprendi. This court therefore grants Kaua's § 2254 petition.

Download kaua_ruling.pdf

December 17, 2004 at 03:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


December 12, 2004

Is it finally Booker/Fanfan eve?

Perhaps I should try a little reverse psychology and predict the opinion in Booker and Fanfan is not coming tomorrow.  Would that lead this blog to report the opinion is coming Monday? 

Whatever is going to happen tomorrow, it is fun to read again and again Milbarge's terrific 'Twas the Night Before Booker.  I suppose it is also fun to read all these prior "pre-decision" posts:

And, as noted before, lots of additional posts of note and other background materials on Blakely and Booker and Fanfan can also be found on this Blakely Basics page.  A wealth of other information can also be accessed through the various Booker/Fanfan and Blakely page links in the right side-bar.

UPDATE: And for an effective overview of the law and politics surrounding Blakely and Booker, this article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer provides a reader-friendly summary of the major stories of modern sentencing reform.

December 12, 2004 at 05:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack


December 6, 2004

Remarkable retro retroactivity reality

I reported here on a federal case with Kafkaesque qualities, but a case coming from the Illinois Supreme Court last week has a factual backdrop that perhaps not even Franz Kafka could have imagined.  The case of Lucien v. Briley, 2004 WL 2743586 (Ill. Dec. 2, 2004), concerns the retroactive application of Apprendi and Blakely, and it raises some issues I recently highlighted here.

Lucien is not remarkable legally, though it does reiterate the view of the Illinois Supreme Court that Apprendi (as well as Blakely) is a "new procedural rule" that will "not apply retroactively to cases in which the direct appeal process had concluded when Apprendi was decided."  But Lucien is quite remarkably factually because the lower Illinois courts had applied Apprendi retroactively in state habeas and had released the defendant from custody in December 2001.  Thus, at the time of the Illinois Supreme Court's decision last week, defendant Lucien had been free for three years (after having served more than 20 years of the 60-year extended-term sentence that had been imposed based on judicial fact-finding in 1980).

Interestingly, Lucien argued to the Illinois Supreme Court that he should not be reincarcerted because "his conduct while at liberty establishes that he is rehabilitated."  The Court ducks this compelling claim, even though it seems to find support in a provision of the Illinois Constitution, by remanding the case for further proceedings in the lower courts.

Based on these remarkable facts, it is interesting to speculate whether (1) Lucien might seek cert. on the Apprendi retroactivity issue (if only perhaps to try to extend his time free), and (2) whether lower courts might accept Lucien's claim that "public policy forbids reincarcerating a rehabilitated person at further public expense."  But, regardless of the court happenings, this seems like a case where executive clemency could bring a close to a case which seems more appropriate for resolution in equity than at law.

December 6, 2004 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


December 4, 2004

Reflections on retroactivity and constitutional responsibilities

Though courts and litigants are now working through what Blakely means for current cases, and legislatures and sentencing commissions are having to contemplate what Blakely means for future cases, an extraordinarily compelling concern  — at least for a lot of prisoners and their families — is what Blakely means for past cases.  (Especially during the Dickens time of year, I have come to think about the sentencing world in terms of the ghosts of Blakely past, present and future.) 

I have spotlighted retroactivity issues in a number of prior posts (some of which are linked at the end of this post), but I have now added a category archive on "Apprendi / Blakely retroactivity."  I suspect the doctrine and policy debate over Blakely's backward reach is just starting to heat up. 

Indeed, the amazing opinions coming from the 11th Circuit yesterday in the Levy case (noted here), which address when the court will consider a Blakely claim, spotlight the complicated legal and policy issues that arise when already-sentenced defendants seek to benefit from Blakely.  Judge Gerald Tjoflat's dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc in Levy is a particularly compelling opinion — and not just because it cites this blog on page 33 — and it highlights that defendants' ability to benefit from Blakely may ultimately depend more on matters of timing than matters of justice.

But, as I have suggested in a few of the posts listed below, I hope that retroactivity issues become not only the concern of courts.  All branches of government pledge commitment to the US Constitution, and thus all branches of government should be concerned if a large number of defendants have been sentenced in an unconstitutional way.  Indeed, I think executive and legislative officials have a constitutional responsibility to at least consider possible remedies for already-sentenced defendants with valid Blakely claims who, because of judicial retroactivity doctrines, may not get relief in the courts.

I have collected and linked here some prior posts discussing retroactivity issues, and I will have more to say on these topics in coming posts:

December 4, 2004 at 07:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack