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Supreme Court News

It was a busy Monday in the U.S. Supreme Court:

Court limits scope of federal drug trafficking law

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously refused to broaden the scope of a law that adds extra prison time to the sentences of drug traffickers who use guns in carrying out their crimes.

In a 9-0 decision, the Court said the sentence enhancement does not apply to traffickers who trade guns for drugs.

Here's a quote that should warm the hearts of strict constructionists and judicial restraint advocates along with libertarians too:

'Given ordinary meaning and the conventions of English, we hold that a person does not 'use' a firearm' under federal law 'when he receives it in [a barter] trade for drugs.'

Antonin Scalia?

Nope.

David Souter.

* * *
Court allows discretion for drug sentences; Sentencing Guidelines not mandatory

By identical 7-2 votes in companion drug cases the Supreme Court on Monday re-affirmed that federal trial judges have discretion to deviate from U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and when reasonable to impose lesser sentences than those delineated by the Guidelines.

The lead case involved a sentence for crack cocaine. Its companion case involved an ecstacy drug conspiracy. In both cases the sentencing judges went below the minimum terms required by the Sentencing Guidelines, decisions the justices on Monday affirmed under the precepts of a 2004 Supreme Court ruling.

The Court did not rule on whether Constitutional equal protection mandates are violated by disparaties in sentences for crack as opposed to powdered cocaine. Recently the Sentencing Guidelines were amended and that disparity was reduced. Currently the U.S. Sentencing Commission -- which prepares the Guidelines under Congress' direction -- is determining whether that change will be applied retroactively.

Incidentally, you'll notice I don't have any links to any media reports about the Sentencing Guideline cases. That's because the media's reporting was so colored by its agenda -- crack vs. powder, i.e., black vs. white -- the articles I saw uniformally were useless.

* * *
Supreme Court rejects challenge to GOP deficit-reduction law

A liberal group's challenge to a GOP deficit-reduction law passed in 2006 was terminated on Monday as the Supreme Court let the law stand.

Without comment the High Court refused to disturb lower court rulings which had dismissed Public Citizens' lawsuit contesting the validity of a $39 billion deficit-reduction law that passed the House and Senate in 2006 in slightly differing versions because of a clerical error.

Here's a link to a decent enough article. Read the whole thing. There's lots of interesting info between the lines.


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Comments (4)

If Mr. Justice Souter has s... (Below threshold)

If Mr. Justice Souter has suddenly discovered the "ordinary meaning and the conventions of English," that can only be regarded as good news.

What? Did he take a class or something?

Just to give you a WTF mome... (Below threshold)
Rance:

Just to give you a WTF moment, the court had previously ruled, that the guy giving the gun in return for the drugs, is using the gun.

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_12_09-2007_12_15.shtml#1197306010

So the sentencing guideline... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

So the sentencing guidelines in the crack cases -- is the issue that the sentence bounds were developed by the commission, and not written into law by Congress? If so, then I can understand the ruling. If the Court in fact ruled that federal courts may ignore minimum sentences written into law, then I have a problem with that.

A pity Souter didn't give a... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

A pity Souter didn't give a damn about "ordinary meaning and the conventions of English" in Kelo v. City of New London.




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