DEFENDER SERVICES OFFICE
TRAINING DIVISION





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.





    September 29, 2016
    Supreme Court to Determine Whether the Residual Clause in 18 U.S.C. § Is Void for Vagueness

    Today, the Supreme Court granted cert in Lynch v. Dimaya (No. 15-1498), to decide whether  the residual clause of 18  U.S.C.  § 16 (b),  as  incorporated  into  the Immigration  and  Nationality  Act’s  provisions  governing  an alien’s removal  from the United States, is unconstitutionally vague.  Subsection (b)  defines  “crime  of  violence”  to include  “any . . . offense  that  is  a  felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical  force  against  the  person  or  property  of  another  may  be  used  in  the  course  of  committing  the offense."  The Sixth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have held that 16(b) is unconstitutional under Johnson. The Fifth has held otherwise.

    The Court also granted cert in Nelson v. Colorado (No. 15-1256) on the following issue: Whether Colorado’s requirement that defendants must prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence to get their money back, after reversal of conviction of a crime entailing various monetary penalties, is consistent with due process.



    July 28, 2016
    Sentencing Commission Issues Report to Congress on Career Offender Enhancements

    Today the Sentencing Commission issued its Report to the Congress: Career Offender Sentencing Enhancements, recommending that the career offender provisions focus on violent offenders, as opposed to drug trafficking only offenders.  The report also recommended that Congress enact a uniform definition of "crime of violence" for all federal statutes consistent with the new sentencing guidelines definitions.  For more on the report see the Commission's press release.



    June 28, 2016
    Supreme Court Grants Cert in Johnson Guidelines Case; Issues Opinion Holding Reckless Use of Force Constitutes a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9); Vacates McDonnell Public Corruption Convictions

    Yesterday, the Supreme Court Granted Cert in Beckles v. United States (No. 15-8544), to decide the following issues:

    (1) Whether Johnson v. United States applies retroactively to collateral cases challenging federal sentences enhanced under the residual clause in United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) § 4B1.2(a)(2) (defining “crime of violence”);

    (2) whether Johnson's constitutional holding applies to the residual clause in U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2), thereby rendering challenges to sentences enhanced under it cognizable on collateral review; and

    (3) whether mere possession of a sawed-off shotgun, an offense listed as a “crime of violence” only in commentary to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2, remains a “crime of violence” after Johnson.

    CJA panel attorneys are advised to reach out to the defender in their district or National Sentencing Resource Counsel if in doubt on how to proceed in a pending case in light of the cert grant.

    The Court also issued a decision in  Voisine v. United States (No. 14-10154), holding in a 6-2 opinion that misdemeanor  assault  convictions  for  reckless  conduct are misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence that trigger the ban on possession of firearms under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9).  For more on the opinion see these posts on the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog and  SCOTUSblog.

    Additionally, the Court scaled back what is considered an "official act" for the purposes of a federal bribery conviction in the unanimously decided McDonnell v. United States (15-474).  For more on the opinion see this SCOTUSblog post.



 

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