Supreme Court Takes Up Case On Federal Prisoner “Safety Valve”

In 1948, Congress decided that using habeas corpus for collateral attacks on federal criminal judgments presented too many practical problems, so it created a new “motion to vacate” procedure in 28 USC § 2255. Congress provided that the new motion would be available on any ground that made the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack. Then it barred use of habeas corpus for this purpose, but added a “safety valve” that resort to habeas corpus could still be had if the motion procedure was “ineffective or inadequate” to test the validity of the prisoner’s detention.

Collateral attacks on criminal judgments (habeas corpus for state prisoners and § 2255 for federal prisoners) grew like weeds for the next five decades until Congress clamped down in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA).

Does the “safety valve” effectively negate the reforms for federal prisoners? Can they simply dance around the limits by saying the limits render the § 2255 remedy “ineffective or inadequate” and file a habeas corpus petition? The obvious answer is “no.” Congress does not enact laws with the intent that they be easily evaded. Yet, there is a circuit split, and today the Supreme Court took the question up. Continue reading . . .

Chesa Boudin Probably Headed Out the Door

There is an active recall campaign against the radical DA of San Francisco, Chesa Boudin.  To his credit, Boudin, while running for office, didn’t make much of a secret about where his sympathies lay.  He was with the George Soros “criminals-are-victims” agenda from stem to stern.  His problem is that the reality of his tenure apparently is ringing a different bell with San Francisco voters than the high-sounding rhetoric of the campaign.  So now, according to the KRON poll, Boudin is in big, big trouble.

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Intimidating Justices and Their Children at Home Is Illegal as Well as Disgusting

After the unprecedented leak of a draft of a possible SCOTUS decision on the case overruling Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion activists have decided it would be a good idea to flock en masse outside the neighborhood homes of the Justices to make sure they know that, if the “wrong” decision were handed come late June, they would, in Chuck Schmer’s words, “pay the price.”

Gathering in menacing mobs at the homes of Justices has been defended by exactly those people who, for four years, were loudly aghast at the “breaking of norms.”  But as it turns out, the mob activity is not merely disgusting but illegal  —  or at least such is the view of that right-wing rag, the Washington Post.  Its article is quoted in part below.

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An Ethically Challenged Sentencing Commission Nominee

The President today nominated a full slate of attorneys and judges for the US Sentencing Commission.  The majority are Democrats, as is the President’s prerogative.  I don’t know any of them, but I am familiar with the work on one of them, former US District Judge John Gleeson.  Gleeson will be familiar to most readers as the amicus appointed by the district court in the infamous Michael Flynn prosecution, to argue in support of the court’s continuing with the prosecution notwithstanding the Justice Department’s wish to end the case on account of questionable (at best) prosecutorial behavior.

But there is another aspect of Gleeson’s behavior, undertaken while he was on the bench, that calls into question his ethical fitness.  I wrote about this before, and regrettably, it is newly relevant today.

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Arizona to Execute Murderer

Murderer Clarence Dixon is scheduled to be executed today in Arizona for the brutal killing of Deana Bawdion, a 21-year-old Arizona State University co-ed.  The New York Post reports that, absent a last-minute stay, Dixon will be the first Arizona murderer put to death in almost eight years.   A 2019 Ninth Circuit opinion upholding Dixon’s conviction and sentence indicated that he was living across the street from Bawdion on January 6, 1978 , when she returned from a local bar at 12.30 AM.  At about 2:00 AM her boyfriend discovered her partially nude body on her bed.  She had been stabbed several times and strangled with a belt.  An autopsy revealed semen in her that could not be matched to any suspect at that time.  In June of 1985 Dixon was convicted of aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and four counts of sexual assault of a Northern Arizona University student.  He received a sentence of life in prison for those crimes.  In 2001 a cold-case detective ran the DNA from the Bawdion murder through the FBI database and found a match to Dixon.  After seven years of pre-trial maneuvers Dixon was finally tried and sentenced on January 15, 2008.  It was noted at sentencing that the day before Deana Bawdion’s body was discovered, Dixon was released from custody after a court found him not guilty by reason of insanity for attacking a teen-aged girl with a metal pipe.  His attorneys have unsuccessfully claimed he was mentally incompetent in the trials and appeals of the NAU co-ed rape and assault case and the Bawdion murder case.  In last-minute appeals, they are still making that claim.  UPDATE:  Dixon was executed at 10:51 AM today.

The Abortion Case and Criminal Law

The big news in law is, as we all know by now, the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion (per Alito, J.) overruling Roe and Casey.  The central holding of the draft is that the Constitution simply has nothing to say about abortion, and therefore that whether and in what ways it should be regulated are matters left to the political process.

CJLF takes no position on abortion, and neither for present purposes do I (a mere guest contributor here in any event).  But there is potentially very important news for criminal law in the draft opinion.

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The Bloodshed Continues As Illinois Doubles Down on Progressive Reform

CWB News provides an unflinching video of two criminals robbing and shooting a young man in the Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood last Friday.  There is nothing unique about this brazen crime which, once again, puts the racist criminal justice reform policies of progressive politicians and district attorneys in sharp perspective.   As reported by ABC 5 in Chicago, the 23-year-old culinary student was ambushed, robbed of his cellphone and shot by a pair of criminals police believe are responsible for eight armed robberies in the neighborhood over a two-day period.  Does anybody believe that these two robbers are first time offenders?

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LADA Gascón Targets Judge

Progressive (read pro-criminal) Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón is labeling a superior court judge who refused to drop “special circumstance” allegations against a double-murderer, as an opponent to the interests of the people of Los Angeles County.  A story by Roger Grace of the Metropolitan News Enterprise reports that Gascón has ordered all of his deputies at the Pomona Branch to file a peremptory challenge against LA Superior Court Judge Rob B. Villeza in every criminal case assigned to his court—claiming under penalty of perjury that the judge is biased against their client ie, the residents of the county.   This appears to be retaliation to the judge’s refusal to abide by Gascon’s policy of dropping additional charges called enhancements provided under state law to increase the sentences of cold-blooded gang murderer.

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Gascón Recall Update

The campaign to recall LA DA George Gascón has collected 400,000 of the needed 566,857 signatures with two months to go, Fox News reports. In practice, they need more than the minimum as some signatures will always be invalid.

Putting Radicals on the Bench

Last January, during oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Ohio v. OSHA,  involving the state’s challenge to the agency’s testing and vaccine mandates, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.”   This was entirely wrong, earning four Pinocchios from the unabashedly liberal Washington Post.  The Post noted that about 5,000 children were hospitalized with suspected covid, with few if any on ventilators.  Was the Justice acting as an advocate or a judge when she made this false statement?  Jason Riley has this piece in the Wall Street Journal, discussing the danger in appointing political radicals as judges.  He cites President Biden’s nomination of Nusrat Choudhury to the Federal District Court for New York’s Eastern District.  For most of her legal career, Choudhury has been a racial justice advocate for the ACLU.  Last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee she was asked about a speech she gave at Princeton in 2015.

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