Brett Stuff
Judging the Judges
Term Year: 2018

Denard Stokeling, Petitioner v. United States

Summary Analysis

DATE: 2019-01-15
DOCKET: 17-5554
NAME: Denard Stokeling, Petitioner v. United States

   AUTHOR: Thomas
   JOINING: Breyer, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh
   GOOD: Yes

OPINION: Dissenting
   AUTHOR: Sotomayor
   JOINING: Roberts, Ginsburg, Kagan
   GOOD: No

Case Commentary

Hey! Hey! We finally have a dissenting opinion... not to mention, a fairly evenly split court.

Is this case Worthy of The Court?

Clearly, no.

The underlying law (the Armed Career Criminal Act) sucks turd balls. We know this, because I have already covered a Supreme Court Slip about the Armed Career Criminal Act in this project for this term. And The Supreme has looked at the Armed Career Criminal Act in previous terms, as well.

So, yeah.

The Armed Career Criminal Act (as written) sucks.

The pertinent part of the law is:
If A, B, or C, then 15 years.
Previously, the court threw out C as being too vague, which is exactly what it should do to A, here.

But it didn't.

{Please Note: this A, B, or C syntax is all mine and is provided for clarity.}

Also, I should note, with the dissenting opinion, I find myself reasoning about the case more in line with how The Justices do (or so, I would have you believe). In isolation, I may well have disagreed with the Opinion of the Court. But The Court's Opinion is better than the Dissent's, so I'm throwing my lot in with The Majority.

As said, the pertinent section of the Armed Career Criminal Act takes the form:
If A, B, or C, then 15 years.
In other words, if a person (but are they really a person at this point) is in Possession of a Firearm and they have Three Prior Convicted Felonies of the form A, B, or C then their minimum sentence for Possession of a Firearm will be 15 years.
C is Un-Constitutionally Vague, so it does not apply.

B is a Listing of Offences, which are not relevant to the case at hand.

A tries to define a class of Violent Felonies.
It is the Opinion of The Court (and yours truly) that the text of the Statutory Offence for which Mr Stokeling had been previously convicted is consistent with A in the above.

You decide:
Part A of the Armed Career Criminal Act
"...use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force..."

Robbery in Florida
"...use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear..."
Robbery in Florida looks like it takes as much (or more) force as the threshold requirement (so, this is the minimum) as stated in the Armed Career Criminal Act (Part A). As such, it's pretty much an open and shut case to my eye.

{And in fact, all we have to do is compare the last two items on each list. If 'putting in fear' is greater than or equal to 'threatened use of physical force', we have a match.}

In fact, I was thinking the only reason I might possibly agree with the Dissent was if the reduced sentence was part of a Plea Bargain.

Um, it was not.

The Dissent argues (in my opinion, so blah-blah qualify-qualify) that it is not the wording of the statute that is key, but its implementation. So, rather than the letter of the law that matters, it's the Judicial System's interpretation of the law, which oddly enough, does not always conform to the letter.

In short, the Dissent's Methodology is way too complex to be practical.

Talk about vague and unworkable.

Here, The Supreme Court is deciding a case. So, it's not like Mr Stokeling (or anybody) had due warning as to the proper interpretation of the Armed Career Criminal Act before this decision. So not only would The Dissent's Methodology make The Law (and any law, at that) even more of a moving target than in was before; by making it a moving target, the law would become unpredictable; and as such, unenforceable.

In short, the bedrock truth of any law should be the text of the law, itself.

Further, if we are too look at the implementation (rather than the bedrock truth of the text), we must look at the Federal Implementation along with the underlying State's. And this will quickly become a hornet's nest.

No thanks.

Now that that's settled, I have three other things I wish to discuss.

First, the dissent argues stare decisis, which basically means (does it actually mean this) stand the decision and/or we've already decided that.

But it is to be expected that as The Court's composition changes, it's opinions will change.

So, suck it up.

Secondly, it was only discovered that Mr Stokeling was a in Possession of a Firearm (not a good thing for a Felon to be in possession of), because he was a Burglary Suspect (for yet another crime) and admitted to having a gun upon questioning. I can only assume the Burglary charges were dropped and never pursued (or never even brought... or maybe they crumbled in court, in truth, I do not know), because being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm was a slam dunk conviction. And fifteen years was enough.

There does seem to be some degree of injustice there. I mean, hey, if he deserved the 15 years, why not throw on a few more for being a Burglar, as well?

Finally, the Burglary took place at the Tongue & Cheek: what is purported to be a restaurant, but I like to imagine it as a Strip Club!
'I'm having a hard time visualizing the evidence.'
'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?'
'Road Trip!'

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© copyright 2019 Brett Paufler
A Personal Opinion/Editorial