The Week Ahead – November 28, 2016

This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases. On Monday the Court will hear arguments in Beckles v. United States. Travis Beckles was convicted in 2007 of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The presentence investigation found Beckles to be an armed career criminal. He also was considered a “career offender” under one of the guidelines’ provisions because guideline commentary declared possession of a sawed-off shotgun to be a crime of violence under Section 4B1.2(a)(2) of the sentencing guidelines. Last year, in Johnson v. United States,  the Supreme Court struck down the “residual clause” of the ACCA. The residual clause had said that any felony that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” is included among the category of “violent felonies.” The court ruled that the clause was unconstitutionally vague because it did not give ordinary people sufficient notice of what conduct the statute prohibits. Seven justices (Justice Kagan is recused) will decide three issues: is Johnson retroactively applicable to the guideline residual clause of the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA); is Johnson’s constitutional holding applicable to Section 4B1.2(a)(2) of the sentencing guidelines; and is possession of sawed-off shotgun a “crime of violence” under the guidelines after Johnson? The Daily Caller discusses how the case gives the court the opportunity to revisit the Auer Doctrine. Scotusblog also discusses the case in more detail, here.

The Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in Moore v. Texas, which presents the issue of whether it is constitutional to prohibit the use of current medical standards on intellectual disability in determining whether someone may be executed. In 1980, Moore, then 20 years old, robbed a supermarket with two other men. Moore was convicted of the shooting death of one of the store’s employees and sentenced to death. More than 30 years later, Moore was again sentenced to death, but a state trial court determined that Moore is intellectually disabled and cannot be executed. On appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, using standards from 1992 rather than current standards, reversed, holding that Moore had not established that he was intellectually disabled. The Court will decide whether it violates the Eighth Amendment and the Court’s decisions in Hall v. Florida and Atkins v. Virginia to prohibit the use of current medical standards on intellectual disability when deciding whether someone may be executed. As ISCOTUSnow reported last week, Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, weighs in on the case in this Time opinion piece. And The Economist argues that the state’s ideas on which it bases its executions are “used nowhere else in America.” SCOTUSblog also has more information.

Wednesday the court will hear arguments in Jennings v. Rodriguez. The case presents the issue of whether immigrants must be guaranteed a bond hearing and possible release from custody. Alejandro Rodriguez, a class representative, is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The U.S. government sought to remove him from the U.S. based on criminal convictions for possession of a controlled substance and “joyriding.” The government detained him for more than three years without a bond hearing. An immigration court later granted Rodriguez “cancellation of removal,” and he remains in the country. The justices will also have to decide: whether criminal or terrorist aliens who are subject to mandatory detention under Section 1226(c) must be afforded bond hearings, with the possibility of release, if detention lasts six months; and whether, in bond hearings for aliens detained for six months under Sections 1225(b), 1226(c), or 1226(a), the alien is entitled to release unless the government demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the alien is a flight risk or a danger to the community, whether the length of the alien’s detention must be weighed in favor of release, and whether new bond hearings must be afforded automatically every six months. Law 360 offers a glimpse at the attorney who will be arguing the case, Ahilan Arulanantham, who has recently won a McArthur Award. And SCOTUSblog has more information about the case.

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