This Week at the Supreme Court


by Jonathan Keim | November 28th, 2016

The Supreme Court returns today for oral argument in one of three cases this week. It’s not clear whether the reduced number of cases is the result of the Court’s reduced cert grant rate, tryptophan, or Cyber Monday. We may never know.

Anyway, today the Court hears argument in Beckles v. United States, which addresses continued fallout from the Court’s 2015 decision in Johnson v. United States. Johnson, you’ll remember, struck down the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act’s definition for “violent felony” (“involv[ing] conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another”) as void for vagueness. Whereas Johnson only struck down part of the statute, this case considers whether (and how far) the same rule extends to the advisory sentencing guidelines that are indexed to the stricken portion.

On Tuesday the Court turns to Moore v. Texas as it considers whether a Texas rule mandating a particular set of expert standards for evaluating intellectual disability violates the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment as interpreted by the Court’s decisions in Hall v. Florida and Atkins v. Virginia.

Wednesday’s argument in Jennings v. Rodriguez will address the issue of detention in immigration law. The statute sets out several categories of detention, some of which allow detention without bond hearings pending the outcome of immigration proceedings and some of which allow release on bond. The decision below provoked some harsh language in the Solicitor General’s brief, which accuses the Ninth Circuit of “replacing the longstanding legal regime with a radical new one.”

Next week the Court will return for the second and final week of its December sitting.