Supreme Court denies shorter sentences for 1000s of low-level drug offenders

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Ambiguously written laws with poor grammar shouldn’t justify this. Jesus. This is why we not only need more justices appointed by Democrats, but we need more justices like Jackson who have experience as public defenders. Kagan’s experience is as a Constitutional Law Scholar, with a small side of prosecutor experience (Solicitor General). I’m not surprised she wrote this opinion. We need more Justices from more varied backgrounds, both academically and professionally. Thomas, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kavanaugh all went to Yale Law. Kagan, Gorsuch, and Jackson all went to Harvard. Barrett went to Notre Dame. If it weren’t for everything else about her, I would like the fact that she went to a law school other than Harvard or Yale. Jackson is the first Justice with public defender experience in a very long time.


Just so everyone knows what this is about. It’s about a part of the federal sentencing law that says that mandatory minimums can be set aside if:

(1) the defendant does not have—
(A) more than 4 criminal history points, excluding any criminal
history points resulting from a 1-point offense, as determined
under the sentencing guidelines;
(B) a prior 3-point offense, as determined under the sentencing
guidelines; and
(C) a prior 2-point violent offense, as determined under the
sentencing guidelines.

At first read, it seems obvious that if a defendant doesn’t have one of those three items, then the mandatory minimum should be able to be set aside. And in this case, Mr. Pulsifer did not have a 2-point violent offense on his record. However, if you go by that interpretation, it renders another section completely redundant. So the majority said what this actually means is that a defendant can’t have any of those three items on his record in order for the mandatory minimum to be set aside. That’s why I say it’s an ambiguously, poorly written law. Kagan even acknowledged that, saying that, taking that paragraph by itself, both interpretations are valid. I kind of think I would argue that this makes the law impermissibly vague and strike that whole section of mandatory minimums. But that’s just me. What do I know?


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Diversity of background, law school, religion (or lack thereof), sexual and gender orientation, practice and professional experience, age, etc. That would be an under-appreciated advantage of “stacking the court” to 13-15 justices in and of itself.


Just a few years ago, every Justice on the Supreme Court was either Catholic or Jewish. That always struck me as odd. Now I think there are two who aren’t. KBJ is Protestant, and I think Gorsuch is, although he was raised Catholic.


Ugh, this reminds me of the tedious minutae of writing prerequisite requirements for college courses and degree programs.


Oh you should try law school. Jesus.


This is another awful decision
and somehow I   agree   with    Neil    Gorsuch?

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Makes me think of the fascinating and super pedantic debate over the government’s eminent domain power based on whether or not a comma is present in the Fifth Amendment’s “takings clause”.

An inconsistent comma supposedly appears between the words ‘use’ and ‘without’ in the phrase, ‘nor shall private property be taken for public use[,] without just compensation’. From this important clause was born the concept of eminent domain, which allows government to take property from citizens if it is for the larger good - such as bulldozing a house to build a highway overpass. Ridiculously enough, the absence or presence of these commas is an important legal question, and many versions differ. Some would say that there are two commas surrounding the words ‘for public use’. According to some legal scholars, the presence of these commas would totally change the meaning of the Fifth Amendment so that the government would not be quite so restrained to only taking private property if it is for public use. In theory, if those commas exist, the government would have a bit more legal room to confiscate private property.


It happens. Gorsuch has a couple of areas where he’s not awful. This is one of them. Native American issues is another.


Jews and Catholics, Yale and Harvard. These are the important things to balance on the Supreme Court!

Seriously, though, the traditions of Judiasm and Catholicism – lots of rules and interpretations of those rules – lends themselves to people becoming lawyer; it’s not an accident that the bench for “Popeable” SCOTUS Justices skews heavily Jewish and Catholic.

(And, yes, Gorsuch was raised Catholic but converted to Anglicanism. Heathen!)

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Certainly, we’ve seen how a 5x representation of conservative Catholicism on the court skews their judgement. That shouldn’t be controversial that it’s an engineered bias.


The 10th Circuit (from which Gorsuch came) (WY, CO, UT, NM, KS, OK) and the 8th Circuit (ND, SD, NE, MN, IA, MO, AR) have a vastly disproportionate number of Indian Law cases v. the other circuits. That Gorsuch gets Indian Law* is not surprising. It’s a very interesting universe of law (I’ve gotten to work on 3 or 4 Indian Law cases in my career).

  • BTW, as a term of art it’s “Indian Law” among everyone who practices it, left, right, or center.
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Anglicanism is another religion with lots of rules and interpretations of those rules. The clergy are terrified of a schism happening, so the whole thing is set up to make everyone unhappy, but not so unhappy that they leave. It’s how you end up with one Anglican church believing that being queer is a sin, while the one in the neighbouring parish will happily bless gay couples and would marry them if they were allowed.

I am convinced that there are Anglican vicars who are atheists, but stay around because they believe in the social institution.


The social institution, and the free house and cushy job. Work shy louts who make a living lying to children.


Anglicanism is just Catholicism with divorce and married priests.


Presumably the lawmakers who wrote the law in 2018 are available to question.

Did anyone ask them or did they call up the court and say this is what we meant?

Write a damn law that doesn’t need interpretation or if you find out it’s being misinterpreted, fix it.


I was raised United Methodist. Not as many rules, but it did just experience that schism, largely over same sex marriage. My parents just lost their church because of it. Their church, the same one I went to as a child, opted to remain United Methodist. But this is in Texas, so half the congregation decided to leave so they could go hate gay and trans people with other like minded assholes. The remaining congregation was not enough to support the church, financially, so it’s closing its doors permanently.


Wow, that’s written badly. To write it in mathematical logic terms, it’s a question between not(A and B and C) which expands as (not A) or (not B) or (not C) versus (not A) and (not B) and (not C) which combines to not(A or B or C).

I’d think that the latter interpretation is probably the one that makes sense, because in the former you could not have a 2-point violent offense but rather have a 3 point violent offense and qualify. (Maybe elsewhere they specify 2 point means 2 or greater, which would render this example irrelevant, but it is vague nonetheless.)