Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Thursday, March 9th, 2017

The Dismantling of the Holder Memo Begins

It looks like the work of dismantling the progress made under the Holder memo has begun.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a memo directing US Attorneys to work with local law enforcement to identify the ‘criminals’ in their districts who are driving violent crime and prosecute them federally using all available tools. You can read the memo here. An additional memo on charging decisions in all criminal cases will follow.…


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Categories: 922(g), 924(c), Hobbs Act, RICO

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Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The Supreme Court Holds that the Advisory Guideline Are not Subject to Vagueness Challenges

In Beckles v. United States, 580 U.S. ___, 2017 WL 855781 (March 6, 2017) the Supreme Court held that Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. 2551, 135 S.Ct. ___ (2015), does not apply to the Guidelines’ residual clause because “the advisory Guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process clause.” Slip op. at 1. In an opinion by Justice Thomas, the Court’s reasoning was based on the advisory nature of the Guidelines since United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). Slip op. at 7. Because the now advisory guidelines “merely guide the district court’s discretion,” they do not implicate the vagueness doctrine’s concerns with notice and arbitrary enforcement. Slip op. at 7-9. Justice Thomas noted that the decision did “not render the advisory Guidelines immune from constitutional scrutiny,” only void-for-vagueness scrutiny; they are still subject to ex post facto rules and Eighth Amendment …


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Categories: career offender, guideline, Johnson, vagueness

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Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Second Circuit Vacates Denial of Sentence Reduction

United States v. Melendez, No. 16-1019 (2d Cir. Feb. 16, 2007) (Leval, Calabresi, Carney).

In this summary order, the Circuit vacated the denial of a motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The Court ruled that the district court (Judge Hurley) clearly erred in deciding that the defendant (a client of Federal Defenders) was legally ineligible for a sentence reduction. Judge Hurley ruled that the defendant was ineligible because, at the original sentencing, conducted by Judge Platt, the court had found him responsible for 44.8 kilograms of heroin, a quantity that precluded him from receiving a sentence reduction. The Circuit held, however, that Judge Platt never adopted the PSR’s finding of 44.8 kilograms or otherwise made a specific quantity finding. The court merely said that the PSR’s range was “accurately computed,” which would have been true if the quantity was anywhere above 10 kilograms. Thus, the …


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Categories: 3582(c)(2), drug quantity, guideline

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Friday, January 27th, 2017

Jan. 25 Executive Order and Federal Defense of Immigrants

President Trump’s executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” signed on Jan. 25, may have significant impacts on non-citizens with open federal criminal cases in the relatively near term.  The order is only two days old and does not explicitly withdraw existing agency guidance on most issues it addresses, so it is not clear how soon DHS or DOJ will issue revised guidance to field offices regarding implementation. But federal criminal practitioners should be aware of several aspects of this order that may alter the landscape for noncitizen defendants and should closely monitor their implementation:

1) Some federal defendants who would not have been ICE enforcement priorities before may now be high priorities for removal even pre-conviction.  Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a 3-tiered system of ICE enforcement priorities in late 2014.  Once those took effect in 2015, 98 to 99% of all …

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Categories: deportation

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Categories: deportation

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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Circuit affirms restitution order based on co-conspirator interview

In United States v. Pinto, the Second Circuit affirmed an order of restitution that was based, in part, on a government memorandum recounting an interview with a co-conspirator.  The District Court had refused to order the government to produce the QuickBooks records that were a partial basis for its restitution calculations.

The District Court has the discretion to decide the procedure it will employ in determining a restitution award “so long as the defendant is given an adequate opportunity to present his position.”  Order at 3. The court “is only required to ascertain by a preponderance of the evidence ‘a reasonable approximation of losses by a sound methodology.'” Id. (citing  United States v. Gushlak, 728 F. 3d 184, 196, and Paroline v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1710, 1727-28 (2014)).…

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Categories: restitution

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Categories: restitution

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Circuit affirms sentence despite district court’s application of Guideline range that differed from parties’ plea agreement

In United States v. Byrd, the Second Circuit affirmed a sentence despite the District Court finding an applicable guideline range different from the one agreed to by the parties in a written plea agreement.  The Circuit held that although “district courts have the discretion to give effect to Guidelines calculations in plea agreements that result in downward departure from the correct Guidelines range,” there is no affirmative obligation that the district court give effect to such calculations.  Unless the district court misunderstood its authority to depart, the decision not to depart is generally unreviewable.…


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Categories: guideline, plea agreement

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In Summary Order, Circuit affirms use of low copy number DNA evidence at trial

In United States v. Morgan, the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction despite the defendant’s challenge to the use of Low Copy Number DNA evidence at trial.  The Circuit concluded that “although LCN analysis is supported by significantly weaker evidence of reliability than traditional DNA analysis, the district court did not abuse its discretion in this case in holding that the proffered expert evidence met the reliability standards of Rule 702: We cannot say that its ruling here was ‘manifestly erroneous.'” The Circuit did say that it expressed “no opinion on the propriety of admitting the results of LCN testing in other cases and note[d] that OCME is discontinuing its use of LCN testing in favor of newer technology that produces reliable results in most of the sensitivity range for which it previously employed LCN testing.”  Hopefully, this limits the already-limited applicability of this summary order in future cases.

The …

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Categories: DNA

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Categories: DNA

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Thursday, January 12th, 2017

New DOJ Guidelines for Photo Arrays

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice issued new guidelines for the use of photo array identification procedures.  You may find this useful in support your request for an expert in cases in which these procedures were not followed.

The ABA Journal has an update on the policy as well as links to the DOJ memo and other media coverage of the policy.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/new_justice_department_guidelines_aim_to_ensure_reliability_of_photo_arrays…


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Categories: identification procedures, Uncategorized

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Monday, January 9th, 2017

Sentencing Commission’s Interactive Sourcebook

Have you ever wanted to know the average length of sentences for a particular criminal history category for a particular guideline?  Do you want to make an argument that cases involving MDMA see a higher rate of below-guideline sentences than other drug cases, either nationally, by circuit or by district?

Then this is the website for you!

The Sentencing Commission has an interactive Sourcebook that you can use to generate tables that are not available in the printed version of the annual Sourcebook.  You can use it to compare below-guideline sentences by each primary guideline across the district or circuit, to break down the average length of sentence by criminal history category for each primary guideline, or to find the rate of below-guideline sentences for drug offenses involving different drugs.

You can access the Interactive Sourcebook here:

http://isb.ussc.gov/Login

Our friends at the Sentencing Resource Counsel Project have shared this helpful,

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Categories: sentencing

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Categories: sentencing

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