Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Far Enough

Today, the US Supreme Court ruled against the defendant in Whitfield v. US. We discussed the cert grant here. The issue was the scope of the word "accompany", as in a bank robber who forces someone to accompany him. The force of the word is that it increases the penalty to a ten-year mandatory minimum. 18 USC 2113(e).

This was a unanimous and short opinion (five pages), authored by Justice Scalia, and it could have been shorter because there was not much to say. Forced accompaniment is more than de minimus distance but does not require much -- in this case, Whitfield had a woman move a few feet from one room to the next room of her house. "We hold that a bank robber 'forces [a] person to accompany him,' for purposes of §2113(e), when he forces that person to go somewhere with him, even if the movement occurs entirely within a single building or over a short distance."

The only thing of slightest interest about this opinion (unless you are Mr. Whitfield) is that Chief Justice Roberts had to announce it from the bench because the opinion's author, Justice Scalia, was stuck in traffic and late to work.

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