Author Archive | Anthony O'Rourke

Friday, June 1st, 2018

This Week’s Supreme Court Opinions

This week the Supreme Court issued two opinions, both of which seem relatively straightforward in their holdings.

In Collins v. Virginia, the Court held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a warrantless search of a vehicle parked within the curtilage of a home. In Collins, police officers tracked a stolen vehicle to the address of the defendant’s girlfriend. There, parked in the driveway, an officer saw what appeared to be a motorcycle frame covered with a white tarp. The officer entered the driveway, uncovered the tarp, and confirmed that it was the stolen motorcycle.

Justice Sotomayor’s opinion, for an eight-member majority, is clear in its language and broad in its scope. The opinion swiftly concludes that the part of the driveway on which the motorcycle was parked was curtilage.  That portion of the driveway was enclosed on three sides, but open …


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Categories: automobile exception, curtilage, Fourth Amendment, MVRA

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Friday, May 18th, 2018

Supreme Court Roundup (including post-Dimaya GVRs)

This week the Supreme Court issued a number of significant criminal opinions, as well as a number of GVRs signalling that the holding of Sessions v. Dimaya likely extends to § 924’s residual clause (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B)).

In McCoy v. Louisiana, 16-8255, the Court held that it was structural Sixth Amendment error for an attorney to concede a defendant’s guilt, against his wishes, in the hope of sparing him the death penalty. McCoy’s attorney argued that his client lacked the mental capacity to form the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder, see slip op. at 3 n.1, but conceded in his opening statement that the jury could not reach “any other conclusion than Robert McCoy was the cause of” the victims’ deaths. Id. at 4. This strategy, the Court held, violated the client’s Sixth Amendment rights regardless whether it was “counsel’s experienced-based view . . . that confessing …


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Categories: 924(c), Fourth Amendment, ineffective assistance of counsel, right to counsel, traffic stop, wiretaps

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Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Judge Woods Grants New Trial Due to Jencks Act Violation

The Supreme Court issued a number of significant opinions yesterday, but it is worth highlighting an important district court decision that might otherwise escape notice. This month, Southern District Judge Gregory Woods issued an opinion and order granting a new trial based on the government’s inadvertent failure to provide Jencks Act material—specifically the notes of proffer sessions with a key cooperating witness. Judge Woods’s opinion in United States v. Russell, No. 16-cr-396 (May 4, 2018), DE 618, is available here.

Mr. Russell was the sole person who went to trial among twenty-one defendants who were indicted in a cocaine distribution conspiracy. The government’s principal witness at the trial, Kenneth Ashe, testified pursuant to a cooperation agreement. After a short trial, involving only five witnesses and two days of testimony, Mr. Russell was convicted of conspiracy to sell crack cocaine and a 924(c) charge. Mr. Ashe’s testimony was …


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Categories: 3500 Material, harmless error

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Friday, May 4th, 2018

Second Circuit Reverses Insider Trading Conviction on 401/403 Grounds (Short Summary)

Yesterday, in a headline-making white collar case, United States v. Litvak, No. 17-1464 (2d Cir. 2018) (Winter, Chin, Korman (EDNY)), the Circuit reversed an insider trading conviction on Rule 401 and 403 grounds. In very general terms, the Circuit ruled that the district court erroneously admitted testimony of a witness’s subjective belief as to a bond trader defendant’s fiduciary responsibilities with respect to a trade, even though the belief was unreasonable and thus irrelevant to whether the defendant made a material misstatement. Time permitting, we will blog about the case in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, the opinion is available here.…


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Categories: insider trading, mortgage fraud, Rule 403, securities law

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Second Circuit Vacates Imposition of Lifetime Supervised Release

It’s been a busy week for the Second Circuit. On Wednesday, the Circuit reversed a sentence imposing a life term of supervised release for a defendant who had initially been convicted of drug offenses. See United States v. Brooks, No. 16-4063 (2d Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (Parker, Lynch, Chin) (appeal from Kaplan, J., SDNY). The opinion, available here, contains great language for use at sentencings and appeals.

The defendant in Brooks had initially pled guilty to distributing and possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, in violation statutes including 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). After release from prison, he was charged with numerous supervised release violations, and pled guilty to violating three conditions related to drug use. At his revocation hearing, the defendant’s attorney noted the defendant’s “serious drug problem” as a “huge underlying and contributing factor” to his violations. Neither the government nor Probation recommended a specific …


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Categories: drug distribution, procedural reasonableness, sentencing, substantive reasonableness, supervised release

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Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Second Circuit Reverses Denial of Suppression Motion, Clarifies Scope of Curtilage

Today the Second Circuit reversed the denial of a motion to suppress guns that police found adjacent to a shed in the backyard of a defendant’s home. United States v. Alexander, No. 16-3708 (2d Cir. 2018) (Lynch, Carney, Hellerstein (SDNY)) (appeal from Amon, J., EDNY). This area, the panel held, was curtilage and thus considered part of the home for Fourth Amendment purposes. In so holding, the panel clarified that Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1 (2013), abrogates at least three Second Circuit opinions suggesting that driveways and other publicly accessible areas fall outside the curtilage of a home. The opinion in Alexander, which this office litigated, is available here.*

The defendant in Alexander lived in a narrow house, on a property fenced on three sides but open to the street. The property included a driveway that extended past the house, with a shed …


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Categories: curtilage, Fourth Amendment

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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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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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