The Defender Services Office Training Division furthers the right to effective assistance of counsel by providing training and other resources to attorneys appointed under the Criminal Justice Act.

    May 27, 2015
    Supreme Court to Hear Cases on Mandatory Minimum for Child Pornography Convictions, and Batson Challenge in Capital Trial 

    Yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases of interest to criminal defense practitioners, Lockhart v. United States (No. 14-8358) and Foster v. Humphrey (No. 14-8349). 

    The question presented in Lockhart is: Whether the mandatory minimum sentence of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b)(2) is triggered by a prior conviction under a state law relating to "aggravated sexual abuse" or "sexual abuse," even though the conviction did not "involv[e] a minor or ward," an issue that divides the federal courts of appeals.

    In Foster, the issue is whether the Georgia courts erred in failing to recognize race discrimination under Batson in the extraordinary circumstances of this death penalty case.

    May 19, 2015
    Supreme Court Holds Firearm Owner Convicted of a Felony May Lawfully Transfer His Weapons 

    Yesterday, the Court unanimously ruled in Henderson v. United States (No. 13-1487) that a firearm owner convicted of a felony is allowed to transfer his weapons to independent third parties, including selling the weapon on the open market. For more on the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post

    April 21, 2015
    Supreme Court Limits Use of Dog Sniff After Completion of a Traffic Stop

    Today, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Rodriguez v. United States (No. 13-9972).  As summarized by Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, the Court held the following:

    In Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U. S. 405 (2005), this Court held that a dog sniff conducted during a lawful traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment’s proscription of unreasonable seizures. This case presents the question whether the Fourth Amendment tolerates a dog sniff conducted after completion of a traffic stop. We hold that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures. A seizure justified only by a police-observed traffic violation, therefore, “become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission” of issuing a ticket for the violation. Id., at 407. The Court so recognized in Caballes, and we adhere to the line drawn in that decision.

    April 13, 2015
    Sentencing Commission Votes to Promulgate Amendments to Guidelines

    On April 9, 2015, the Sentencing Commission voted to promulgate amendments to the sentencing guidelines.  These amendments will be submitted to Congress by May 1, 2015.  Barring congressional action, they will take effect November 1, 2015.  For an overview of the most relevant changes, see this Summary of the 2015 Proposed Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines by National Sentencing Resource Counsel. Read the language of all the proposed amendments in the Commission's Preliminary Version of the Amendments. Practitioners may be able to use favorable amendments now in arguments for variances.

    April 01, 2015
    This Week's Actions by the Supreme Court: Opinions on Electronic Monitoring and IAC, and Cert Grants on Death-Sentencing Proceedings

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion in Grady v. North Carolina (No. 14-593), addressing whether North Carolina's electronic monitoring program constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The monitoring program requires those convicted of sex offenses to wear an ankle bracelet tracking their movement for the rest of their lives. While the Court held that "a State. . . conducts a search when it attaches a device to a person's body, without consent, for the purpose of tracking that individual's movements," the Court declined to decide whether or not such a search is unreasonable.

    The Court also issued a per curiam opinion in the habeas case of Woods v. Donald (No.14-618), and granted cert to review death-sentencing proceedings in three state cases, Kansas v. Carr (Nos. 14-450 and 14-449), and Kansas v. Gleason (No. 14-452).

    Full story

    March 25, 2015
    Supreme to Determine Whether Miller v. Alabama Applies Retroactively

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert in Montgomery v. Louisiana (No. 14-280).  The issue presented is whether Louisiana improperly denied retroactive application of the constitutional ban on automatic life-without-parole sentences for children, as set forth in Miller v. Alabama

    March 10, 2015
    Supreme Court to Examine Jury's Role in Death Penalty Sentencing

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert in Hurst v. Florida (No. 14-7505), to decide whether Florida's death sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment or the Eighth Amendment in light of Ring v. Arizona,  536 U.S. 584 (2002) (applying Apprendi's reasoning in the capital sentencing context).  For more on the case, see this SCOTUSblog post.

    March 03, 2015
    Supreme Court to Rule on Conspiracy to Extort

    Yesterday the Supreme Court granted cert in Ocasio v. United States (No. 14-361) to decide whether a conspiracy to commit extortion requires that the conspirators agree to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy. 

    February 25, 2015
    Supreme Court Holds That a Fish Is Not a "Tangible Object" Under 18 U.S.C. §1519

    Today the Court issued an opinion in Yates v. United States, in which it reversed the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit.  In the plurality opinion Justice Ginsburg wrote, "Mindful that in Sarbanes-Oxley, Congress trained its attention on corporate and accounting deception and cover-ups, we conclude that a matching construction of §1519 is in order: A tangible object captured by §1519, we hold, must be one used to record or preserve information."  For an analysis of the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.


       Latest News Archives