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Federal Criminal Law

Ohio v. Clark - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-23-15 featuring Michael O'Shea.
Michael O'Shea June 23, 2015

On June 18, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Ohio v. Clark. This case involved two questions regarding the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause: (1) whether an individual’s obligation to report suspected child abuse makes that individual an agent of law enforcement for purposes of the Confrontation Clause; and (2) whether a child’s out-of-court statements to a teacher in response to the teacher’s concerns about potential child abuse qualify as “testimonial” statements subject to the Confrontation Clause. The Supreme Court of Ohio rejected Clark’s challenge to his conviction on these grounds.

The United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio by a vote of 9-0 and remanded the case. In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito and joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Sotomayor, and Kagan, the Court held that because neither the child nor his teachers had the primary purpose of assisting in Clark’s prosecution, the child’s statements did not implicate the Confrontation Clause and therefore were admissible at trial. Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Ginsburg, filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.  Justice Thomas also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. 

To discuss the case, we have Prof. Michael O’Shea, who is a Professor of Law at the Oklahoma City University School of Law. 

Elonis v. United States - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 6-11-15 featuring John Elwood and Kent Scheidegger
John Elwood, Kent S. Scheidegger June 11, 2015

On June 1, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Elonis v. United States. This case involves two questions. First, this case asks whether the First Amendment requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten in order to convict someone of threatening another person under 18 U.S. C. § 875(c), or whether it is sufficient to demonstrate that a “reasonable person” would consider the statement to be threatening. The second question in this case is whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of another person requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten.

In an opinion delivered by the Chief Justice, the Court held that general intent is not sufficient to support a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 875(c) and that the imposition of criminal penalties under the statute requires proof of a “guilty mind.” 

Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion for the Court was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Alito filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Thomas filed a dissent. 

To discuss the case, we have Kent S. Scheidegger, Legal Director & General Counsel, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and John Elwood, Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP.

When is a law too vague to be Constitutional?

Short video with Ilya Shapiro discussing Johnson v. United States
Ilya Shapiro April 18, 2015

Senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, Ilya Shapiro explains the confusion concerning what constitutes a violent felony conviction under the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act. In this upcoming Supreme Court case, Petitioner Johnson claims the ACCA is unconstitutionally vague while the government asserts that Johnson’s conviction for possession of a short-barreled shotgun satisfies the violent felony requirement of the statute.

Ilya Shapiro is co-counsel on the amicus brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Federal Defenders, Families against Mandatory Minimums and the Cato Institute in support of the Petitioner.
 
As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

Whitfield v. United States - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 4-3-15 featuring John Stinneford
John F. Stinneford April 03, 2015

On January 13, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Whitfield v. United States. This case concerns 18 U.S.C. § 2113(e), which provides a minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for a bank robber who forces another person “to accompany him” during the robbery or while fleeing the scene.  The question is whether the requirement that the robber force another person “to accompany him” requires proof of more than a minimal movement of the victim.

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court, which held that a bank robber, for purposes of §2113(e), “forces [a] person to accompany him,” when he compels that person to go somewhere with him, even if the movement occurs entirely within a single building or over a short distance.

To discuss the case, we have Professor John Stinneford, who is Associate Professor of Law and Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Center at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.