Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Second Circuit Reverses Conviction and Reassigns Case Concerning Brady Violations, CJA Resources, and More

Though upstaged by Dimaya, the Second Circuit issued a remarkable summary order yesterday–one that calls attention to potential Brady violations in the EDNY, and to the CJA resources necessary to detect such violations. See United States v. Djibo, No. 16-3956 (2d Cir. 2018) (Sack, Hall, Droney) (appeal from Johnson, J, EDNY). In Djibo, the Circuit vacated the denial of a Rule 33 motion based on late Brady/Giglio disclosures, and held that the district judge abused his discretion by refusing to grant the CJA resources necessary to review those disclosures. The panel also determined that the defendant’s sentence was procedurally unreasonable, and reassigned the case “to preserve the appearance of justice.” The order in Djibo, available here, is worth reading in its entirety. Here is a lengthy summary (with some facts drawn from the briefs):

Mr. Djibo was convicted following a jury trial of four counts related …


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Categories: Brady, procedural reasonableness

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More on Dimaya

Courtesy of Sentencing Resource Counsel Sissy Phleger.  (See yesterday’s post for a quick take on Dimaya‘s implications for the Second Circuit’s holding, in United States v. Elvin Hill, that § 924(c)(3)’s residual clause is not constitutionally vague).

Today, in Sessions v. Dimaya, the Supreme Court struck down the residual clause in 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) as unconstitutionally vague. Kagan authored the opinion, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and in operative part, Gorsuch. Though it turned on the constitutionality of § 16(b)—a broadly applicable criminal statute—the case itself was an immigration proceeding in which the petitioner was challenging his pending deportation for an aggravated felony. The definition of aggravated felony in the Immigration and Nationality Act includes crimes of violence defined by § 16(b). 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(F).

Section 16(b) defines “crime of violence” as any felony “that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical …


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Categories: 924(c), ACCA, categorical approach, due process, INA

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Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Big Dimaya Win!

Today, in Sessions v. Dimaya, the Supreme Court held in a long-awaited, 5-4 opinion that the  residual clause definition of a “crime of violence” incorporated by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), is unconstitutionally vague. Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion, which Justice Gorsuch joined in relevant parts while also writing an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. The opinions are available here. We will try to provide a deeper account of Dimaya in the near future. In the meantime, here is a quick summary of the majority opinion and a take on its implications.

The INA makes non-citizens removable, and ineligible for cancellation of removal, if they have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” after entering the United States. 8 U.S.C. §§  1227(a)(2)(3), 1229(b)(a)(3), (b)(1)(C). The Act defines “aggravated felony” to include a “crime of violence” as defined under 18 …


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Categories: 924(c), ACCA, categorical approach, due process, INA

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Monday, April 16th, 2018

BuzzFeed News Releases Searchable Database of 1,800 NYPD Disciplinary Files

Today, BuzzFeed News made public a searchable database of the disciplinary records of 1,800 NYPD employees who faced departmental misconduct charges between 2011 and 2015.  BuzzFeed News says it has “determined that there is an overwhelming public interest in” the records, and has published them in searchable format.

You can find an article explaining the release, as well as a link to the database, here.

The database also is available here.

Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News published the results of its investigation, concluding that officers kept their jobs despite offenses like “lying to the grand jury” and “physically attacking innocent people.”  You can read BuzzFeed News’ report here.…


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Categories: Police Misconduct

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Friday, April 13th, 2018

Miller Round-Up

The Second Circuit issued no criminal opinions or notable summary orders this week. This silence provides the occasion to flag two recent decisions outside the Circuit about the scope of Miller v. Alabama (2012) (requiring individualized sentencing consideration before sentencing a juvenile offender to life without parole, and holding that this punishment may be imposed only on “the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption”).

First, Judge Hall of the District of Connecticut extended Miller’s holding to 18 year-old offenders. The decision in Cruz v. United States, granting a successive 2255 petition, is available here. Judge Hall’s opinion in Cruz identifies national policy and scientific consensuses that disfavor mandatory life without parole (LWOP) for 18 year-olds.  With respect to the policy consensus, Judge Hall looked beyond the number of states that forbid LWOP for 18 year-olds to consider the actual frequency with which this punishment is …


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Categories: Eighth Amendment, life, Miller

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Friday, April 6th, 2018

Recent Cert. Grant on the ACCA’s Definition of “Violent Felony”

It’s been a relatively slow week for the Second Circuit, but the Supreme Court recently granted cert. in Stokeling v. United States, 17-5554, a case concerning the definition of “violent felony” under the ACCA. Sentencing Resource Counsel Sissy Phleger has these details:

The issue: Whether a state robbery offense that includes “as an element” the common law requirement of overcoming “victim resistance” is categorically a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i), when the offense has been specifically interpreted by state appellate courts to require only slight force to overcome resistance.

Florida’s robbery statute reads, in relevant part,

(1) “Robbery” means the taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the …

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Categories: ACCA

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Categories: ACCA

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Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Opinion Reversing Alcohol-Related Supervised Release Condition

Yesterday the Second Circuit issued a short opinion reversing a special condition of supervised release requiring the defendant to abstain from any alcohol while on supervision. The opinion in United States v. Betts, No. 17-231 (Leval, Calabresi, Cabranes) (reversal from WDNY) is available here. (The Second Circuit recently issued a summary opinion that reached the same conclusion on plain error review).

The defendant in Betts was originally convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and pled guilty to a violation of supervised release for failing to notify his probation within 72 hours of an arrest (for driving without a license). As a special condition of supervised release, the district court imposed a total ban on alcohol consumption. The Second Circuit held that this condition was not reasonably related to his underlying conviction or his admitted supervised release violation:

The District Court was not presented with any evidence

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Categories: supervised release

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Categories: supervised release

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Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Confrontation Clause Error in Summary Opinion

Yesterday the Circuit engaged in a bit of harmless error in describing the relationship between the Confrontation Clause and the business records exception to the hearsay rule, Fed. R. Evid. 803(6). The mistake in United States v. Grecco, No. 16-3112 (2d Cir. 2008) (Jacobs, Wesley, Korman (EDNY)), available here, is worth flagging because it has the potential to create problems in future cases.

The appeal in Grecco raised the question of whether the admission of an autopsy report violated the Confrontation Clause because the report was “testimonial” in nature. The panel held that any error in admitting the report was harmless, and thus declined to address this question. The panel repeatedly framed the question, however, as “whether the autopsy report was testimonial in nature, or a business record that is therefore not subject to Confrontation Clause requirements.” Sum. op. at 3.

This framing misstates the law. At one …


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Categories: Confrontation Clause, Crawford, hearsay

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Three Robberies in an Hour: Separate Offenses Under the ACCA

Today the Second Circuit held that three robberies committed on the same evening–within the same hour–were “committed on occasions different from one another” within the meaning of the ACCA. See United States v. Bordeaux, 17-486 (2d Cir. 2018) (Cabranes, Raggi, Vilardo (WDNY)). The opinion, available here, also holds that a subsection of Connecticut’s first-degree robbery statute, punishing robberies committed with a firearm, defines a violent felony for ACCA purposes.

The relevant facts of Bordeaux are buried toward the bottom of the opinion, in the analysis section. The defendant and accomplices robbed three different victims on the same night in Bridgeport, CT. The robberies occurred at approximately 10pm, 10:15pm, and 10:55pm on November 24, 2009. The district court “took notice that the distances between the first and second and the second and third robberies were, respectively, “a little less and a little more than one‐half mile.” Slip …

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Categories: ACCA, Shepard

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Categories: ACCA, Shepard

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Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Supreme Court Narrowly Construes IRS Obstruction Provision

This week the Supreme Court held that, to establish a violation of the IRS’s obstruction provision, 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a), the government must prove that the defendant was aware of a pending, “targeted governmental tax-related proceedings, such as a particular investigation or audit.” Sentencing Resource Counsel Sissy Phleger has the details:

In Marinello v. United States, the Supreme Court narrowly construed the obstruction provision in the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a), known as the Omnibus Clause. That provision criminalizes “corruptly or by force or threats of force . . . obstruct[ing] or imped[ing], or endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede, the due administration of [the Internal Revenue Code].” Justice Breyer wrote the opinion, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch. Thomas dissented, joined by Alito.

Relying on prior precedents interpreting other obstruction provisions, the Court narrowly construed the provision to require: first, that there be “a …


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Categories: statutory construction, statutory interpretation, tax evasion

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Friday, March 16th, 2018

SDNY: Venue for the World (St. Croix edition)

The Second Circuit held yesterday that venue in the SDNY was proper for defendants charged with a narcotics conspiracy that operated in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida. The only meaningful link to the SDNY was that, after arrest, a co-conspirator was transported to Manhattan and, at the behest of government agents, called some of his co-conspirators to inform them that he was “in New York.” See United States v. Tank Yuk et al., No. 15-131 (2d Cir. 2018) (Chin, Carney, Forrest (SDNY)) (appeal from Nathan, J., SDNY). Judge Chin wrote a short dissent that shows not only the peculiarity of this holding, but also how it expands the government’s power to charge defendants in any district they choose. The opinion—which also rejects Brady, sufficiency-of-the-evidence, Napue, and Guidelines claims—is available here.

The defendants in Tang Yuk were charged with a conspiracy involving the shipment of …

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Categories: conspiracy, venue

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Categories: conspiracy, venue

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