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Two Federal Sentencing Cases

The US Supreme Court decided two federal sentencing cases today.

v. United States involves the chronic problem of defining a "violent felony" for the purpose of the three strikes provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act.  (If that sounds familiar, see Monday's post on the "serious drug offense" provision of the same act.)  How about fleeing an officer in a car?  The facts of the case are nowhere near the kind of chase involved in Scott v. Harris.  Even so, the Court affirmed the sentence.  Those who like to track Justice agreement and label them by ideology should note the split -- Kennedy joined by Roberts, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor and joined in the judgment by Thomas.  Scalia, Kagan, and Ginsburg dissent.

DePierre v. United States asks the seemingly easy question of whether "cocaine base" in the drug statute means "cocaine base" or whether Congress used that term when it really meant "crack cocaine," which is one variety of cocaine base.  The Court holds unanimously that the statute means what it says.  Opinion by Justice Sotomayor.  Justice Scalia grouses separately about the use of legislative history (which he considers bunk) to interpret a statute that is clear on its face.

Note that we are now seeing former SG Kagan in federal criminal cases, so the cases from which she is recused have apparently been largely flushed from the pipeline.

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