Supreme Court Opinions

The Federal Docket

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justifying a traffic stop when he runs a vehicle’s license plate and learns that the registered owner’s license has been revoked or suspended.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.

Holguin-Hernandez v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that a defendant has preserved his ability to appeal a sentence as substantively unreasonable as long as the sentence ultimately imposed was longer than the sentence he requested.

United States v. Davis (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which criminalizes carrying a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence” or drug trafficking crime, as unconstitutionally vague. The decision was based on prior Supreme Court decisions striking down similar provisions defining “crimes of violence” under 18 U.S.C. § 16 and the ACCA.

Rehaif v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 922, which criminalizes possession of a firearm by certain groups of individuals (such as felons), has an intent element requiring that the defendant had knowledge of both his possession of a firearm and of his status in a class of individuals prohibited from possessing firearms.

Quarles v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Supreme Court unanimously held that the defendant’s 2002 Michigan conviction for third-degree home invasion was a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act’s enumerated-offenses clause, as the Michigan offense “substantially corresponded to” or was narrower than generic burglary under the categorical approach from Taylor v. United States.

Flowers v. Mississippi (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

Curtis Flowers was tried six separate times for the same murder by the same prosecutor. Several of his convictions were vacated by the Mississippi Supreme Court based on findings that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct and used it peremptory strikes on the basis of race in violation of Batson v. Kentucky. After his sixth trial, in which the State struck five black jurors and allowed one black juror to be seated, Flowers was convicted.

United States v. Haymond (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2019)

The Court struck down 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k) which required district courts to impose a mandatory minimum sentence upon revoking a term of supervised release for certain offenses, as the Court cannot impose a sentence exceeding a term of supervised release without a jury finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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