In an unpublished disposition in United States v. Glisson, the Fourth Circuit has affirmed convictions and sentences on narcotics and firearms charges for two brothers, while vacating and remanding on one count for one of the brothers based on a Second Amendment as-applied challenge.
The panel that issued the per curiam disposition consisted of Judge Gregory, Judge Shedd, and Judge Davis. Judge Davis wrote an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
The puzzling aspect of the decision is its remand for further evidentiary development of an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to 922(g)(9), which the Fourth Circuit upheld against a similar challenge in United States v. Staten, issued last December. In his partial concurrence, Judge Davis notes that the remand “may seem puzzling in some sense in light of United States v. Staten, — F.3d —, 2011 WL 6016976 (4th Cir. Dec. 5, 2011), but given the disposition of this appeal, it would seem likely that the government will move successfully to dismiss that charge altogether upon remand.”
Judge Davis is right. The remand does seem puzzling. And the puzzle does not go away upon considering that the remand may be pointless. Is there a new principle that the Fourth Circuit will vacate and remand for harmless non-error?
The more prudent course seemingly would have been to affirm in light of Staten. The panel’s failure to do so, even in an unpublished disposition, suggests that the court may countenance insistence on individualized determinations under Second Amendment challenges to convictions under 922(g)(9), notwithstanding that such insistence appears unwarranted under binding circuit case law.
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A unanimous panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today issued a decision rejecting an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which prohibits a person subject to a certain type of domestic violence protective order from possessing a firearm. Senior Judge Hamilton wrote the published opinion in United States v. Chapman, in which Judge Niemeyer and Judge Diaz joined.
The decision applies intermediate scrutiny and largely tracks the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Staten, also authored by Senior Judge Hamilton. In Staten, the Fourth Circuit upheld 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) against an as-applied Second Amendment challenge. That statutory provision prohibits the possession of a firearm by one convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Some key language from today’s opinion:
Chapman having cast no doubt on the government’s proffered social science evidence and after reviewing it ourselves, we again hold “the government has established that: (1) domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States; (2) the rate of recidivism among domestic violence misdemeanants is substantial; (3) the use of firearms in connection with domestic violence is all too common; (4) the use of firearms in connection with domestic violence increases the risk of injury or homicide during a domestic violence incident; and (5) the use of firearms in connection with domestic violence often leads to injury or homicide.” Staten, 2011 WL 6016976, at *11. Given these established facts, along with logic and common sense, we are constrained to hold that the government has carried its burden of establishing a reasonable fit between the substantial governmental objective of reducing domestic gun violence and keeping firearms out of the hands of persons who are currently subject to a court order which: (1) issued after a hearing satisfying the fundamental requirements of procedural due process; (2) restrains such person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner of such person or child of such intimate partner or person, or engaging in other conduct that would place an intimate partner in reasonable fear of bodily injury to the partner or child; and (3) by its terms, explicitly prohibits the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against such intimate partner or child that would reasonably be expected to cause bodily injury. See United States v. Reese, 627 F.3d 792, 803-04 (10th Cir. 2010) (applying intermediate scrutiny and rejecting Second Amendment challenge to defendant’s conviction under § 922(g)(8)(A)-(B), and (C)(ii)).
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Posted in Fourth Circuit, Law, tagged 922(g), ACCA, Davis, felon in possession, Motz, Shepard, violent felony, Wilkinson on October 25, 2011 |
In addition to yesterday’s decision on gun possession in motorcycle gangs, the Fourth Circuit issued a published opinion in another gun case: United States v. Taylor. The decision came in the consolidated appeals of Daryl Taylor and Antwan Thompson from a jury verdict convicting them of being felons in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).
Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion for the court, which was joined in by Judge Motz. Judge Davis authored a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
The panel unanimously agreed on the disposition of the appellate issues raised with respect to the conviction and sentence of Daryl Taylor.
The disagreement about Antwan Thompson’s sentence centered on the propriety of a 15-year mandatory minimum under the ACCA due to Thompson’s prior felony convictions. Thompson had three relevant prior convictions: two for cocaine offenses and one for second-degree assault under Maryland law. His argument on appeal was that his assault conviction was not a “violent felony” under the ACCA.
The panel majority applied the modified categorical approach, according to which a court can look at certain materials such as charging documents, plea agreements, and transcripts of plea colloquys, to determine whether the conviction was necessarily for a violent felony.
The panel majority rested on the facts set forth in a plea colloquy, according to which Thompson, in resisting arrest for a drug deal, had thrown a Styrofoam cup of liquid at one police officer and scuffled intensely with three of them, leading to a charge for assaulting the officer on the receiving end of the thrown cup of liquid. Thompson argued that he did not admit the facts set forth by the judge in the plea colloquy, but rather that the record showed only that his lawyer did not dispute those facts.
The panel majority holds Thompson to the representations made by his lawyer. By contrast, Judge Davis argues that the attorney’s say-so in declining to make any corrections or additions cannot be treated as the defendant’s confirmation of the facts set forth by the judge.
This area of the law is not one that I specialize in, but my quick take on the governing precedent as a generalist observer is that Judge Davis is parsing Shepard too finely and that the panel majority is justified in treating Thompson’s assault conviction as one for a “violent felony.”
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