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Katherine Menendez, an attorney in the local federal public defender’s office, filed a brief in October asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
“The Fourth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh circuits have all ruled that possession of a sawed-off or short-barrel weapon is not a violent felony,” Menendez wrote in the brief. She noted that as a result, “two men incarcerated in the same federal prison for the same offense with identical offenses in their criminal history, face radically different sentences depending on the law in the circuit [in which] they were prosecuted.”
The solicitor general’s office countered that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Commission has long considered sawed-off shotgun possession a violent crime.
The Armed Career Criminal Act provisions have prompted many appeals to the Supreme Court. Justice Antonin Scalia, in a 2007 dissenting opinion, called the statute a “drafting failure” that should be voided for vagueness. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, now retired, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In 2011, Scalia urged his fellow justices to “ring down the curtain on the [Armed Career Criminal Act] farce playing in federal courts throughout the nation.”
Both the Minneapolis federal public defender’s office and the U.S. solicitor general will be filing additional briefs, and oral arguments are expected before the high court this fall.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224