The Federal Docket is a monthly newsletter providing lawyers and the community a summary of recent important decisions in the area of federal criminal law from the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The opinions are compiled, summarized and analyzed by Tom Church, an attorney in our firm’s federal criminal defense practice.


In The News

  • Updated List of Compassionate Release Grants

    Updated List of Compassionate Release Grants, searchable by facility, medical condition, district, and other key phrases.

  • COVID-19 Deaths among BOP Inmates in June 2020

    List of BOP inmate deaths in June 2020 due to COVID-19, including age, time in custody, offense of conviction, testing history, and whether inmate had pre-existing, underlying conditions identified by the CDC as high risk.

  • Criminal Charges Against Protestors Go Federal

    Federal prosecutors in New York recently announced indictments against three protestors who were arrested in New York City during recent demonstrations against police brutality. The three individuals are accused of throwing explosive devices at police cars during two separate incidents in May. The charges include arson, possession of explosives and destructive devices, and public disorder. ...

  • Feds Increasing Prosecutions of Businesses and Individuals for Alleged “COVID-19 Fraud”

    The past two months saw a surge in federal prosecutions of “COVID-19 fraud” and other COVID-19-related charges. The Department of Justice’s aggressive posture and increasing number of prosecutions signals that federal law enforcement agencies are scrutinizing businesses and individuals who sell, market, or other distribute products that claim to treat or prevent the spread of ...

  • Collection of Compassionate Release Cases

    The outbreak of COVID-19 among the Bureau of Prisons’ facilities has been well-documented by now. The Director of the BOP recently announced that, of the few thousand inmates had been tested by the end of April, 70% tested positive for COVID-19. While Attorney General Barr has issued guidance urging the BOP to “maximize” its use of ...

  • Feds look for fraud in $670-billion small business loan program

    As part of the federal government’s efforts to keep the economy going during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created a $670 billion emergency loan program for small businesses called the Paycheck Protection Program. The DOJ is now announcing that it will scrutinize businesses that apply for and receive this aid, especially large businesses and those applying ...

  • DOJ Targets Internet Scams Involving COVID-19 Fraud

    The Department of Justice issued a press release today announcing that it “has disrupted hundreds of internet domains used to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to commit fraud and other crimes.” The presser notes that the FBI has received thousands of tips related to COVID-19 scams from websites advertising fake vaccines and treatments, fake charity drives, or ...

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Recent Supreme Court Opinions

  • Terence Tramaine Andrus v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020)

    Sixth Amendment/Ineffective Assistance –   Per Curiam Opinion Dissent by Alito, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch

  • Ramos v. Louisiana (U.S. Supreme Court, April 2020)

    In a patchwork opinion involving a lengthy discussion of stare decisis, a majority of the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a unanimous verdict in a criminal prosecution applies to the states through the Fourteenth amendment.

  • Kelly v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, May 2020)

    In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions of the Port Authority officials involved in the infamous "Bridgegate scandal," holding that their convictions for wire fraud on a federally funded program, predicated on their blocking off certain lanes as political retribution against an opposition mayor, were not supported by sufficient evidence because they did not involve a scheme "to obtain money or property."

  • Kansas v. Charles Glover, Jr. (U.S. Supreme Court, April 6, 2020)

    In an 8-1 opinion, the Supreme Court held that an officer has reasonable suspicion justifying a traffic stop when he runs a vehicle's license plate and learns that the registered owner's license has been revoked or suspended. The Court held that it is reasonable for an officer to assume that the vehicle's driver is the registered owner, even where the registered owner's license has been suspended, because the data shows that many individuals who have suspended licenses continue to drive anyway.

  • Kahler v. Kansas (U.S. Supreme Court, March 2020)

    The Supreme Court held that Kansas's insanity defense, which turns on whether the defendant was capable of understanding his conduct as opposed to understanding whether his conduct was morally wrong, did not offend due process. The Court stressed that the insanity defense changes in response to developments in mental health science and that state governments are better equipped to design the defense.

  • Shular v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

    In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held a defendant's prior conviction under state law qualifies as a "serious drug offense" under the ACCA if the defendant's conduct involves "manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance" as spelled out under the statute. In doing so, the Court rejected a categorical approach that would require courts to match the defendant's state offenses to a "generic offense."

  • McKinney v. Arizona (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

    The Supreme Court held that allowing a state appellate court to reweigh the aggravating and mitigating factors in a capital case under Clemons v. Mississippi is a permissible remedy after a finding on collateral review that the sentence court failed to consider mitigating factors in violation of Eddings v. Oklahoma.

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Recent Circuit Court Opinions

  • United States v. Eluogio Tigua, Freddy Castro (11th Cir. June 2020)

    The Court held that defendants who pleaded guilty and had their pleas accepted before enactment of the First Step Act were not eligible for expanded safety-valve relief under the First Step Act, even if they were sentenced after the Act was enacted.

  • United States v. Tony Denson (11th Cir. June 2020)

    The district court is not required to hold a hearing prior to reducing a defendant's sentence under the First Step Act's retroactive penalties for crack-cocaine.

  • United States v. Juan Cuya (11th Cir. June 2020)

    The Court held that a movant under 28 U.S.C. 2255 is not entitled to discovery prior to filing his or her motion.

  • United States v. Bryan Singer (11th Cir. June 2020)

    The Court affirmed the defendant's conviction for unlawfully transporting technology to Cuba without a license, holding that there was sufficient evidence that he knew his conduct was unlawful given repeated warnings he received regarding the export license requirement. The Court also held that the trial court adequately conveyed the substance of the defendant's proposoed instruction on ignorance of the law while it did not recite it verbatim and that the defendant's sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice was warranted given his perjured testimony at trial.

  • United States v. David Pon (11th Cir. June 2020)

    Evidence/Expert Testimony – Expert testimony discussing a theory that lacks sufficient testing, known or potential error rates, control standards, acceptance among the science community, and a connection between the theory and the underlying research is sufficiently unreliable to be excluded. Further, a peer-reviewed paper mentioning the theory is insufficient alone to prove reliability. Evidence/Rebuttal – Evidence ...

  • United States v. Olando Harris, Jr. (11th Cir. June 2020)

    The Court affirmed the defendant's sentence, holding that it was not an abuse of discretion for the Court to weigh the defendant's history and offense over his post-offense rehabilitation.

  • United States v. Mikel Clotaire (11th Cir. June 2020)

    The Court affirmed the defendant's convictions for identity theft and access device fraud. The Court affirmed the trial court's admission of photographic stills from ATM video surveillance, holding that they were non-testimonial business records. The trial court also did not err in allowing lay witness identification, expert witness testimony, or the admission of the defendant's mugshot where there was no indication of his prior criminal history.

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