ABA: U.S. Supreme Court Updates. March 2010.

March 2010
A Service from the ABA Criminal Justice Section, http://www.abanet.org/crimjust

All summaries below were prepared by staff of the ABA Criminal Justice Section..


United States Supreme Court Opinion Decided: March 2, 2010

Petitioner Johnson pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(1). The Government sought sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which authorizes an enhanced penalty for a person who violates §922(g) and who “has three previous convictions” for “a violent felony,” §924(e)(1), defined as, an offense that “has as an element the use . . . of physical force against the person of another,” §924(e)(2)(B)(i). Among Johnsons’ three prior felony convictions was a 2003 Florida conviction for simple battery. Under Florida law, battery is ordinarily a first-degree misdemeanor but was a felony conviction for Johnson because he had a previous battery conviction. A battery can occur under Florida law when a person “[a]ctually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against [his] will.” §784.03(1)(a). The District Court enhanced Johnson’s sentence, concluding that Johnson’s 2003 conviction was a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act because “[a]ctually and intentionally touch[ing]” another constitutes the use of “physical force” under §924(e)(2)(B)(i). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court held that the Florida felony offense of battery by “[a]ctually and intentionally touch[ing]” another person does not have “as an element the use . . . of physical force against the person of another,” §924(e)(2)(B)(i), and thus does not constitute a “violent felony” under §924(e)(1).

In interpreting the phrase “physical force” in §924(e)(2)(B)(i), the Court was not bound by the Florida Supreme Court’s conclusion that, under Florida’s statutory equivalent to the Armed Career Criminal Act, the offense of battery does not “involve the use . . . of physical force or violence against any individual.”

Because §924(e)(2)(B)(i) does not define “physical force,” the Court gave the phrase its ordinary meaning.

The Government suggested that “force” in §924(e)(2)(B)(i)’s definition of “violent felony” is a legal term of art describing one element of the common-law crime of battery. Here, “physical force” does not define the crime of battery, but rather the statutory category of “violent felony.” §924(e)(2)(B)(i). In that context, “physical force” means violent force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.

The Court interpreted the phrase “physical force” only in the context of a statutory definition of “violent felony,” and did not decide whether the same meaning applies in the context of defining the scope of misdemeanor offenses.

The Court declined to remand for consideration whether Johnson’s 2003 battery conviction qualifies as a “violent felony” under § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Reversed and remanded.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a filed dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined.

Available at: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-6925.pdf.

United States Supreme Court Opinion Decided: March 8, 2010
The Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 18 U. S. C. §3161 et seq., requires that a criminal defendant’s trial commence within 70 days after he is charged or makes an initial appearance, whichever is later, 3161(c)(1), and entitles him to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met, §3162(a)(2). Delays in the trial, however, can negate this 70 day period (i.e.: delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant).

On August 24, 2006, petitioner Bloate was indicted by a grand jury with felony possession of firearms and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, starting the Speedy Trial Act’s 70 day clock. On September 7, petitioner filed motion to extend the deadline to file pretrial motions. The deadline was extended to September 25, on which date counsel for the petitioner waived all pretrial motions. On October 4th a hearing was held, in which the magistrate judge found petitioner’s waiver voluntary and intelligent. After several other delays, counsel for petitioner moved to dismiss trial under the Speedy Trial Act, as the 70 day clock had expired. District Court denied the motion as the period from September 13 to October 4 was excluded from the 70 days under the language of the act. Petitioner Bloate stood trial for two days on March 5 and 6, 2007 and was sentenced to two 30 year concurrent terms.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied petitioners appeal reasoning “pretrial motion preparation time” is automatically excludable under [Speedy Trial Act] subsection (h)(1)-which covers “delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant”-as long as “the [district] court specifically grants time for that purpose.” 534 F. 3d, at 897. The Eighth Circuit joined 6 other Courts of Appeals in adopting this ruling, however, two Courts of Appeals disagree, holding that pretrial motions are outside of subsection (h)(1)’s scope. The Supreme Court sought to resolve this issue.

The Supreme Court held that “the time the District Court grants petitioner to prepare pretrial motions may be excluded [from the 70 days] only when a district court enters appropriate findings [justifying the exclusion]. The 28-day period from September 7 through October 4…is not automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1). We therefore do not consider whether any other exclusion would apply to all or part of the 28-day period” 559 U.S. (2010). Although the Supreme Court decision was in favor of Bloate, the 8th Circuit Court may decide on remand, whether the indictment and conviction remain effective.

Reversed and Remanded.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a concurring opinion. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined

Available at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-728.ZS.html


BERGHUIS v. SMITH (No. 08–1402)

United States Supreme Court Opinion Decided: March 30, 2010
Respondent Diapolis Smith was convicted of second-degree murder after a jury trial in Kent County Court, Michigan. Respondent Smith then filed a post-trial motion arguing that the jury which convicted him was not a fair-cross section of the county population because African-Americans were underrepresented. The procedure in Michigan at the time of respondent Smith’s trial was to assign prospective jurors to local district courts first. Remaining prospective jurors were then made available to county court, which heard felony cases. Council for Smith called this process “siphoning” and argued that district courts took most of the minority jurors, leaving county court with a juror pool misrepresentative of the county population. In the case of Duren vs. Missouri, the Supreme Court established a three-pronged test to determine if the fair-cross section requirement is met under the Sixth Amendment. Petitioner must first prove that the group he or she claims was misrepresented was a distinctive group in the community. Petitioner must then prove that the group was misrepresented as compared to the county population. There are multiple statistical analyses to determine this, none of which The Supreme Court has declared as correct or incorrect. Finally, petitioner must prove that the misrepresentation was a result of systematic exclusion of the group during the jury selection process. Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979).

The Michigan Supreme Court denied Smith’s appeal, finding that Smith did not prove prongs two and three of the Duren test. The Sixth Circuit Court reversed this decision, holding that the “siphoning” process systematically excluded minorities and there was no state interest to support this process. The court ordered Smith be retried or released within 180 days.

The Supreme Court reversed holding, focusing on the third prong of the Duren test, whether “siphoning” systematically excluded African-Americans. The Supreme Court held that Smith did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that “siphoning” resulted in systematic exclusion of African-Americans; therefore, he could not claim post-trial relief under the Sixth Amendment. “The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision rejecting Smith’s fair cross-section claim is consistent with Duren and ‘involved [no] unreasonable application o[f] clearly established Federal law,’ §2254(d)(1)” Berghuis v. Smith 559 U. S. ____ (2010)

Reversed and Remanded.

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion.

Available at: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1402.pdf
PADILLA v. KENTUCKY (No. 08–651)

United States Supreme Court Opinion Decided: March 31, 2010
*The American Bar Association, upon the recommendation of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, filed an amicus brief in support of petitioner Padilla. The brief was drafted by Gabriel Chin of the University of Arizona; Daniel Leffell of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP; Peter Margulies of Roger Williams Law School; and Margaret Colgate Love.

Petitioner Jose Padilla, an immigrant who lawfully resided in the United States for the past 40 years, was arrested and charged in Kentucky with drug trafficking. Mr. Padilla pled guilty to the charges. This plea was based on the advice of Mr. Padilla’s counsel that he would not be deported because he had lived in the United States for so long. However, in the State of Kentucky, drug trafficking is an aggravated felony, which effectively subjects petitioner Padilla to mandatory deportation. Mr. Padilla claims had he not been given incorrect advice from his attorney, he would have gone to trial.

The Kentucky Supreme Court denied petitioner’s motion for post-conviction relief on the ground that the Sixth Amendments effective assistance-of-counsel guarantee does not include erroneous deportation advice. Their reasoning was that deportation is a collateral consequence of sentencing rather than a direct consequence.

The Supreme Court reversed that holding, focusing on the two-prong ineffective counsel test outlined in Strickland v. Washington. To satisfy Strickland’s two-prong inquiry, counsel’s representation must fall “below an objective standard of reasonableness,” 466 U. S., at 688, and there must be “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different,” id., at 694. In regard to the effect of collateral consequences on the first prong of the test, the Supreme Court held, “this Court has never distinguished between direct and collateral consequences in defining the scope of constitutionally ‘reasonable professional assistance'” 559 U.S.____(2010). The Court found Padilla satisfied the first prong of the test stating, “when the deportation consequence is truly clear, as it was here, the duty to give correct advice is equally clear” 559 U.S.____(2010). “Whether [Padilla] can satisfy the second prong, prejudice, is left for the Kentucky courts to consider in the first instance” 559 U.S.____(2010).

Reversed and Remanded.

Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Roberts, C. J., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined.

Available at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-651.ZS.html

By: Tim Whooley ABA Criminal Justice Section, Spring 2010 Intern

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