NAME: United States, Petitioner v. Maurice Lamont Davis and Andre Levon Glover
JOINING: Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan
JOINING: Roberts, Thomas, Alito
In our constitutional order, a vague law is no law at all.And there you have it, the first line of The Court's Opinion sums it all up. There is not much else to say... but they went on for another 25 pages, so I can pound out a few more lines without feeling too terribly guilty about the entire thing.
Should I say that I'm not a Lawyer?
Fine, I'm not a Lawyer.
But someday (in the fictional world in which I live), I will be granted a Doctor Emeritus of Law & Stuff from some prestigious Law School.
At which point, I will have to reword my disclaimer.
But as that ain't happening anytime soon, I'm not going worry about the exact wording at this particular juncture in time.
This Case was actually difficult for me. OK. Fine. It wasn't so much difficult, as it was one of those times when Right was Wrong and the appropriate course of action needs to thread a very small needle.
The Court is correct (in my opinion) in that the law should be Voided for Vagueness.
Whereas, if my opinion really mattered, I would have to think the whole matter over for much longer, as The Dissent's principle argument seems to be that thanks to The Court's Decision (i.e. this is not the way the way the Dissent would have it) many Bad People (it's a technical term) are going to be getting out of jail much sooner than they otherwise would.
And we don't want that, now, do we?
Of course, what is being voided in this particular instance is a Double Jeopardy Law.
Say one gets convicted of Armed Robbery. Well, if they also used a gun, then they would, also, be guilty of Using a Gun in the Commission of a Violent Felony.
So, even if we void the second crime, the first crime still stands.
I may have already (as in, I most definitely have already) noted my annoyance with multiple convictions for the same underlying offence.
But disregard that at the moment.
Fundamentally, the second charge (of Using a Gun in the Commission of a Violent Felony) is redundant, as there is always (always, always, always) the underlying Felony Conviction.
In The Case at hand, the guilty parties (before taking the secondary Felonious Use of a Firearm into account) were already staring at possible life sentences. We are talking about the possibility of being sentenced for over a hundred years. They actually got closer to fifty years or so.
But here's the thing. If a person is convicted of multiple crimes and later one of those crimes is overturned, the sentence (since it's typically done en bulk) is reworked.
Well, there's no reason to give these guys reduced sentences.
And in fact, a court is at liberty to increase their sentences if a felon pushes the issue.
Thus, The Dissent's worry that ten of thousands of convicts will re-litigate their cases can be handily sidestepped by giving the first few who do so increased time rather than decreased time.
In other words, if someone is sentenced to 40 Years from a range of 20-120 Years, then on re-sentencing the span may be reduced to 20-70 Years, but a person might just get 50 Years... for a net result of 10 Additional Years.
OLD: 20 - 120 => 40
NEW: 20 - 70 => 50
And thank you for allowing the system to re-evaluate your sentence.
To fix the law (what was overturned, and not the sentencing, which will be handled by a lower court), all Congress must do is enumerate the crimes for which an extra penalty is to be applied... or push that decision onto a jury.
I find it sort of ironic that a jury can make a decision that a judge cannot. But then, I'd have juries make most decisions if I was in charge.
Hey, want to hear a bit of legal humour?
I knew you would.
Here's another quote from The Court's Opinion (internal quotations omitted).
Vague laws contravene the first essential of due process of law that statutes must give people of common intelligence fair notice of what the law demands of them.I mean, think about that. You are supposed to be able to understand the laws of the land.
I want someone to challenge the Tax Code as being unduly complex and having the Supreme Court Void it for Vagueness.