Supreme Court Declares Federal Gun Law Unconstitutionally Vague, Preserving Blue 4th Circuit Victory
In a 5-4 decision in United States v. Davis, the Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutionally vague. That statute imposes a consecutive, mandatory minimum sentence for a defendant who is convicted of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Relying on recent precedent invalidating similar provisions in the Armed Career Criminal Act and 18 U.S.C. 16(b), the Court declared what is known as the “residual” definition of a crime of violence — one that “by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense” — to be unconstitutionally vague.
We have previously written about the technical features of the residual clause that make it unconstitutional here and here. But in the majority opinion, Justice Gorsuch also reaffirms from the outset the proper roles of the courts and Congress in prohibiting certain conduct under federal law:
In our constitutional order, a vague law is no law at all.Only the people’s elected representatives in Congress have the power to write new federal criminal laws. And when Congress exercises that power, it has to write statutesthat give ordinary people fair warning about what the law demands of them. Vague laws transgress both of those constitutional requirements. They hand off the legisla-ture’s responsibility for defining criminal behavior to unelected prosecutors and judges, and they leave people with no sure way to know what consequences will attachto their conduct. When Congress passes a vague law, the role of courts under our Constitution is not to fashion a new, clearer law to take its place, but to treat the law as a nullity and invite Congress to try again.
The Supreme Court took up Davis because the lower appellate courts had issued conflicting opinions regarding the residual clause’s constitutionality. One of the last appellate courts to do so was the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Simms, a case briefed and argued by Blue LLP partner Dhamian Blue. In Simms, issued on January 24, 2019, the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, also held that 924(c)(3)(B) was unconstitutionally vague, and now, Davis affirms the Fourth’s Circuit’s analysis.
For more information about Simms, Davis, and how the might impact a prior or pending federal prosecution, please contact Blue LLP partner Dhamian Blue.
Blue LLP partners Dhamian Blue and Dan Blue III recently attended the Duke Law Bolch Judicial Institute’s invitation-only Distinguished Lawyers conference, held in Arlington, Virginia from June 20-21, 2019. As stated on its website, “[t]he Bolch Judicial Institute’s mission is to study and advance rule-of-law principles, judicial independence, and law reform through technology and innovation.”
The conference, titled Evaluating 2015 Rule 26 Discovery-Proportionality Amendments and Botch-Duke Guidelines and Best Practices, focused on (1) evaluating the effect of the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and (2) recommending any revisions or additions to the Bolch Institute’s Rule 26 Guidelines and Best Practices. A critical focus of the conference was how to keep discovery costs reasonable while also ensuring fairness in the federal civil judicial system. The conference also highlighted the use of technology, including Technology Assisted Review, in the efficient administration of complex commercial litigation such as antitrust, consumer, and wage and hour class actions.
Ten federal judges and approximately 75-100 practitioners from across the country attended the conference.
In Gamble v. United States, No. 17-646, the Supreme Court upheld the separate sovereignty exception to the double-jeopardy rule, allowing both the federal and state governments to prosecute the exact same offense conduct.
The petitioner in Gamble was convicted and sentenced in Alabama state court to 10 years imprisonment (all but 1 year suspended) for the possession of a firearm by a felon. Apparently determining that Gamble’s sentence was too lenient, the federal government later prosecuted him for the same offense under federal law, resulting in almost 3 more years in prison.
In a 7-2 opinion, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its longstanding reasoning that the federal government and each state are separate sovereigns that can punish the same crime twice without violating the 5th Amendment’s double jeopardy clause.
Given the 170 year history of the separate sovereignty exception, repeated and failed attempts to reverse it, and the solid 7-2 majority reaffirming it, there is no longer any question as to whether successive prosecutions for the same offense by state and federal governments is constitutional.
Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP and Blue LLP File Securities Class Action on Behalf of Pyxus International, Inc. (PYX) Investors
Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP and Blue LLP have filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, captioned Jones v. Pyxus International, Inc. et al., No. 5:19-cv-234, on behalf of persons and entities that purchased or otherwise acquired Pyxus International, Inc. (NYSE: PYX) securities between June 7, 2018 and November 8, 2018, inclusive (the “Class Period”).
The lawsuit alleges the following (reprinted from https://www.glancylaw.com/cases-application/case-information/pyxus-international-inc/):
On November 8, 2018, Pyxus disclosed that sales declined approximately 12% year-over-year due to the timing of shipments and the larger crop last year in South America.
On this news, the Company’s share price fell $7.01, or nearly 28%, to close at $18.26 on November 8, 2018, on unusually heavy trading volume.
On November 9, 2018, the SEC announced that the Company had settled charges that it had materially misstated financial statements with the Commission from at least 2011 through the second quarter of 2015 due to improper and insufficient accounting, processes, and control activities for inventory, deferred crop costs, and revenue transactions in Africa.
On this news, the Company’s share price fell $2.88, or nearly 16%, to close at $15.38 on November 9, 2018, on unusually heavy trading volume.
The complaint filed in this class action alleges that throughout the Class Period, Defendants made materially false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects. Specifically, Defendants failed to disclose to investors: (1) that the Company was experiencing longer shipping cycles; (2) that, as a result, the Company’s financial results would be materially affected; (3) that the Company lacked adequate internal control over financial reporting; (4) that the Company’s accounting policies were reasonably likely to lead to regulatory scrutiny; and (5) that, as a result of the foregoing, Defendants’ positive statements about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects were materially misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis.