Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Appellate & habeas lawyers heart SCOTUS

I [heart] SCOTUS Dog T-Shirt
At least today we do, after two defendant-friendly opinions issued by the High Court this week.

In Molina-Martinez v. United States, the Supreme Court unanimously held that a district court's guideline-calculation error will in most cases in and of itself satisfy the "affected substantial rights" prong of plain-error review on appeal.

But wait, there's more! The case includes some interesting discussions of post-Booker sentencing, guideline anchoring, and the future of guideline practice. It is, as Professor Berman says, "a must read for all sentencing practitioners."

In Welch v. United States, the Supreme Court held 7-1 that the opinion in Johnson invalidating the residual clause of the ACCA is a new substantive rule that applies retroactively in collateral proceedings. This is great news for clients serving unconstitutional sentences who may be on their second or successive habeas petitions. Welch is also a lesson in certificates of appealability. Even if you're not a Johnson junkie---if you do federal habeas work, you'll want to read Welch.

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