Gorsuch sides with liberal justices on gun violence law

Gorsuch sided with liberal justices today on a federal gun violence law today while his constitutional counterparts dissented.

Gorsuch, along with Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, ruled the law was simply too vague:

THE HILL – The Supreme Court on Monday ruled 5-4 that a federal law allowing for gun convictions relating to “a crime of violence” was too vague.

The case involved a pair of men who were convicted on several felony robbery charges, but were also convicted under another federal statute that required significant mandatory minimum sentences for a “crime of violence.”

The men in question—Maurice Davis and Andre Glover—argued that the federal law was too vague. The justices on Monday were split in their decision, but ultimately sided with the men.

Gorsuch not only sided with the liberal justices, but wrote the opinion.

Kavanaugh, Thomas, Alito and Roberts all dissented.



At issue is the language of the law. Gorsuch writes in his opinion that the government’s ‘alternative’ explanation of this vague gun violence law, which doesn’t define the “certain other federal crimes” under which the law is to be applied, can’t be squared with the actual text and therefore the court would be stepping outside its purview and “writing a new law rather than applying the one Congress adopted.”

Therefore Gorsuch says Congress needs to “try again” with this law:

Kavanaugh didn’t agree:

 
You can read the full opinion by clicking the link below from SCOTUSblog:

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82 thoughts on “Gorsuch sides with liberal justices on gun violence law

  1. “Crime of violence” doesn’t sound all that vague.

    Except for modern snowflakes who think any statement that offends them is “violence.”

    Maybe he’s got a point. It may be Congress will have to define violence more specifically to keep the law from getting applied to non-violent crimes.

    Of course, the problem with rejecting a law for being too vague is that the standard for vagueness is kind of … vague.

  2. ………”great judges” ,could possibly be another talking point that Trump might have to erase from his political rallies.,but we will still have the Economy and jobs

  3. Gorsuch shows consistency in choosing to side with liberty as he also sided with Ginsberg when they rejected double-jeopardy exception of state/federal charges.

    1. He is also consistent in his dislike of the “crime of violence” definition. Last year he decided against a deportation case that used the catch-all “crime of violence” for deportations.

  4. I’m just hoping Gorsuch doesn’t go loony libertarian and start siding with liberals on major cases.

  5. Not saying I agree with Gorsuch on this but before people go off the rails against Gorsuch, this isnt so much as “siding with liberals” as it really is his libertarian side showing.

    1. The problem is whenever Kavanaugh decides to be conservative, Gorsuch decides to be libertarian. Too often, whenever Gorsuch is conservative, Kavanaugh is liberal. The end result is we get a bunch of liberal court decisions. Also, Gorsuch’s libertarian rationale doesn’t matter. The bottom line is he is pushing a liberal agenda, not a conservative one.

  6. The number of laws on the books that are similarly vague is likely to be huge. The trouble with language is that each and every attempt to add precision simultaneously invites more vagueness into whatever one is describing.

    That the Founders recognized this is undebatable. Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights were pieces of language art that combined logic, reason, and just enough precision to endure with little change.

    The word economy in our founding documents was intentional. It had less to do with the times in which they lived, and more to do with the serious intellectual ability of men who were classically trained in the Bible, world history, and philosophy.

    To go back and want for more clarity from long-established law is frequently (but not always) a fool’s errand. One must study years of application of that law, and only insist on new language where new problems cannot be handled similarly.

    You don’t get to rewrite Paul’s letter to the Romans. You might need to figure out why you don’t understand it, but that’s a *you* problem, not a problem with Paul or the accepted translation.

  7. The number of laws on the books that are similarly vague is likely to be huge. The trouble with language is that each and every attempt to add precision simultaneously invites more vagueness into whatever one is describing.

    That the Founders recognized this is undebatable. Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights were pieces of language art that combined logic, reason, and just enough precision to endure with little change.

    The word economy in our founding documents was intentional. It had less to do with the times in which they lived, and more to do with the serious intellectual ability of men who were classically trained in the Bible, world history, and philosophy.

    To go back and want for more clarity from long-established law is frequently (but not always) a fool’s errand. One must study years of application of that law, and only insist on new language where new problems cannot be handled similarly.

    You don’t get to rewrite Paul’s letter to the Romans. You might need to figure out why you don’t understand it, but that’s a *you* problem, not a problem with Paul or the accepted translation.

  8. Any law with the word “gun” in it is unconstitutional.

    These crimes should all be adjudicated at the STATE level. Not federal. This was never to purpose of the federal government.

    1. I was told to vote for Trump because of conservative judges. Now you Trump supporters are saying conservative judges don’t matter and Ginsburg and Sotomayor are right and Alito and Thomas are wrong. So should I just vote for Biden then in 2020 to get more liberal judges who are soft on crime?

      1. Quote someone who is saying that. Don’t just make it up like a feminist studies professor. If some one said it, then give us a name.

  9. Gorsuch is correct, congress wrote a vague law so nobody should be surprised when it is overturned. What is surprising is why the ruling wasn’t unanimous.
    Edited to add. Justice Gorsuch didn’t side with the liberals, Justice Gorsuch sided with the constitution.

  10. Whatever the significance of this ruling, it appears insignificant in the larger picture of our right to keep and bear arms. The case was pending an arcane legality concerning an ambiguity. It does, however, raise questions about the loyalty of conservative judges to the people, to whom they owe their seats.

    1. Two knuckleheads went on an armed robbery spree of gas stations. They gamed the system by acting like they didn’t know that armed robbery was a crime of violence because it wasn’t specifically written into a federal statute so they’re getting less time in prison. Gorsuch sided with the liberals and the two robbers.

          1. They’re still convicted of:

            1) Multiple counts of robbery
            2) One count of conspiracy to commit robbery
            3) Two counts of use or possession of a firearm during a crime of violence (the crime of robbery)

            The conviction that got tossed was:

            One count of use or possession of a firearm during a crime of violence (the crime of conspiracy to commit robbery).

            Each of the robbery counts, alone, carries up to twenty years.

            1. I hate to admit when either of two people is right: Trump and Slantry.

              But here, Slantry is right.

              Dammit.

  11. 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

    Despite anything else, that should make any (alleged) conservative here very, very happy.

    1. As should this: “in our constitutional order a vague law is no law at all,” Gorsuch observed, because it violates the core constitutional requirement that all federal statutes “give ordinary people fair warning about what the law demands of them.”

    2. Wrong. Sorry, but this is a liberal opinion, not a conservative one. And it’s completely ridiculous. Who, with an IQ over 80, doesn’t realize that a gun crime is a crime of violence. That’s why Thomas and Alito (conservatives) voted one way and Ginsburg and Sotomayor (liberals) voted the other way. Also, your views are libertarian, not conservative.

      1. Damon Root summarizes the issue thus: “At issue is a federal statute which, in the Court’s words, ‘threatens long prison sentences for anyone who uses a firearm in connection with certain other federal crimes. But which other federal crimes?’ That is where the debate over vagueness comes in. The law itself calls for enhanced sentencing in cases involving felonies ‘that by [their] nature, involv[e] a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.'”

        “And what exactly does that mean? Opinions differ. And therein lies the problem. “

      2. Exactly nobody is claiming that a gun crime is not a crime of violence.

        This case is about a statute that makes it a crime for someone to use, carry, or possess a gun during the commission of a “crime of violence,” with the dispute being over whether the term “crime of violence” is adequately defined.

        1. So the two career criminals, who robbed a series of gas stations, didn’t know robbery with a firearm was a violent crime because it wasn’t written into a statute? So is rape not a violent crime if not written in the statute? Murder? Gorsuch is just being a useful idiot as these two knucklehead robbers gamed the system.

          1. The challenge is to the statute as it is written, not as it is applied to these two particular defendants. If a vague law is no law at all, then it can’t be applied against anyone, no matter how much we may disapprove of what they did.

            And how did they game the system? It’s not as if these two guys are getting off scot free now; they’re still looking at decades of prison time.

            To be clear, their convictions under the statute here as they relate to the actual robberies, which are crimes of violence because the elements make them so, are completely unaffected. And, of course, their actual underlying robbery convictions aren’t affected because they weren’t challenged. It’s only the conviction under this statute where the underlying crime of violence was conspiracy to commit robbery (and again, to be clear, this does not implicate the underlying conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery, just the conviction under the enhancement statute where the conspiracy to commit robbery was counted as a “crime of violence”) that can’t be sustained.

          2. Check out pages 12-13 of the opinion. Neil breaks down how wacky things get with a bunch of examples. And he’s right, there is no reasonable explanation “why Congress would have wanted courts to take such dramatically different approaches to classifying offenses as crimes of violence in these various provisions.”

            And he takes a chomp out of Brett’s dissent:

            But the government concedes that §924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional if it means what everyone has understood it to mean in nearly all of those prosecutions over all those years. So the only way the statute can be saved is if we were “suddenly” to give it a new meaning different from the one it has borne for the last three decades.

            Which is something we absolutely don’t want our courts doing.

      3. They most certainly are not, you take that back this minute. Don’t lump me in with the losertarians. Not cool bro. Not cool.

        Anyway, the point wasn’t the opinion itself – but the fact that we’ve got BUT GORSUCH making it unequivocally clear that it is not the Court’s job to make law. Which is something we’ve been complaining about for a LONG time.

        That’s a good thing. We want that kind of discipline in SCOTUS. Gorsuch just condemned activist judges. How is that non-conservative?

    3. But, not this, “The Court usually reads statutes with a presumption of rationality and a presumption of constitutionality,” complained Kavanaugh.

      The court should stop doing this.

      1. Well, luckily he was in the minority. (Although, that’s not as bad as it might seem. It’s just saying, “Look Congress, we’re assuming you idiots know what you’re doing.” Meaning that they’re not going to arbitrarily declare things unconstitutional by fiat, and that the burden of proof is on the challenger to present the case for unconstitutionality.)

  12. “Crime of violence” doesn’t sound all that vague.

    Except for modern snowflakes who think any statement that offends them is “violence.”

    Maybe he’s got a point. It may be Congress will have to define violence more specifically to keep the law from getting applied to non-violent crimes.

    Of course, the problem with rejecting a law for being too vague is that the standard for vagueness is kind of … vague.

    1. Crime of violence, by itself, is extremely vague, which is why it is further defined in the statute to embrace all crimes that have the use of force against the person or property of another as an element, and then all other crimes that have a substantial risk of the use of force in their commission. The second subpart was at issue.

      Note that the way the language of the second subpart has been interpreted essentially requires a judge/jury not to look at the actual crime as it was committed, but to imagine the “mine run” commission of that crime and then determine whether in that hypothetical scenario there is a substantial risk that force will be used against the person or property of another.

      Pretty much all justices agreed that this too is unconstitutionally vague as applied. The split between the majority and the dissent was only whether the statute could be fairly reinterpreted to require the judge/jury to actually make an individualized determination based on how the actual crime at issue was committed. The liberals and Gorsuch said no; the rest of the Court said yes.

  13. So, G. finds the law vague and doesn’t want to leave it to the bureaucracy to flesh it out. I think I can get behind this, too.

  14. ………”great judges” ,could possibly be another talking point that Trump might have to erase from his political rallies.,but we will still have the Economy and jobs

    1. I wouldn’t write off “great judges”. If the law is too vague he did
      the right thing in sending it back to Congress to get it right. In
      reality it is not the end of the world to see a Supreme Court Judge
      not necessarily voting strictly strictly along party lines. Now if we
      can get more of the liberal justices to strictly follow the Constitution
      rather than party thinking we will be in a much stronger position
      as a Country that follows its origins.

      1. bigsir74 is correct. Trump ran on appointing “conservative” judges, not libertarian ones who vote with liberals. Gorsuch is now at a B- and drops everytime he sides with liberals. Although not as bad as Roberts or Kavanaugh, Gorsuch has not been the solid conservative that conservatives were promised.

  15. I’m just hoping Gorsuch doesn’t go loony libertarian and start siding with liberals on major cases.

  16. I’ve never cared much for Gorsuch or Kavanaugh. They have some good points, but still are not Conservative enough for my taste.

  17. Gorsuch shows consistency in choosing to side with liberty as he also sided with Ginsberg when they rejected double-jeopardy exception of state/federal charges.

    1. He is also consistent in his dislike of the “crime of violence” definition. Last year he decided against a deportation case that used the catch-all “crime of violence” for deportations.

  18. Both sides have written logical and reasonable justifications. My final thought is that Gorsuch is declaring war here on Congress writing “vague” laws and leaving it to the Bureaucracy or the Courts to flesh these laws out. If this is his opening salvo, he has rope-a-doped the Leftist Justices to support him on this issue and will hang it around their necks as cases come before the court in the near future addressing this dereliction of duty that Congress has practiced all too often to avoid their constituents holding them accountable for actually doing their jobs. So, I hesitantly support this…..

    1. It’s not the opening salvo; they just had an actual admin/anti-delegation case announced last week where the justices split along more familiar ideological lines. One or two terms ago, Gorsuch sided with the liberals on another case involving vagueness.

      He and the liberals tend to see eye to eye on vagueness, but diverge on the anti-delegation doctrine.

      1. Agreed. But he now has leftist judges agreeing to slam “vague” congressional action (EPA being a major culprit of abusing exactly this). I am hoping this is a long term tactic to hold their feet to the fire.

        Either way, I do not see this as Gorsuch going limp on conservative issues as much as holding the federal government accountable.

        1. I don’t think it represents limpness in conservative issues at all, but it’s also not really the start of anything. It’s not as if this is the first time that liberals have found a statute unconstitutionally vague. Heck, it’s not even the first time Gorsuch has sided with them in doing so

          In other words, nobody broke any new ground today.

          (Also, note that this case didn’t involve any delegation of any authority to the executive beyond, I suppose, charging decisions that are necessarily individualized and that by themselves punish nobody. The branch of government that was figuring out what this statute meant, so to speak, was the judiciary, and the actual work of applying it was largely being done by juries).

  19. Not saying I agree with Gorsuch on this but before people go off the rails against Gorsuch, this isnt so much as “siding with liberals” as it really is his libertarian side showing.

    1. The problem is whenever Kavanaugh decides to be conservative, Gorsuch decides to be libertarian. Too often, whenever Gorsuch is conservative, Kavanaugh is liberal. The end result is we get a bunch of liberal court decisions. Also, Gorsuch’s libertarian rationale doesn’t matter. The bottom line is he is pushing a liberal agenda, not a conservative one.

    1. Two knuckleheads went on an armed robbery spree of gas stations. They gamed the system by acting like they didn’t know that armed robbery was a crime of violence because it wasn’t specifically written into a federal statute so they’re getting less time in prison. Gorsuch sided with the liberals and the two robbers.

  20. So, G. finds the law vague and doesn’t want to leave it to the bureaucracy to flesh it out. I think I can get behind this, too.

  21. I’ve never cared much for Gorsuch or Kavanaugh. They have some good points, but still are not Conservative enough for my taste.

    1. I agree. Trump needs to keep that in mind with his next pick once Ginsberg kicks the bucket.

  22. Both sides have written logical and reasonable justifications. My final thought is that Gorsuch is declaring war here on Congress writing “vague” laws and leaving it to the Bureaucracy or the Courts to flesh these laws out. If this is his opening salvo, he has rope-a-doped the Leftist Justices to support him on this issue and will hang it around their necks as cases come before the court in the near future addressing this dereliction of duty that Congress has practiced all too often to avoid their constituents holding them accountable for actually doing their jobs. So, I hesitantly support this…..

    1. It’s not the opening salvo; they just had an actual admin/anti-delegation case announced last week where the justices split along more familiar ideological lines. One or two terms ago, Gorsuch sided with the liberals on another case involving vagueness.

      He and the liberals tend to see eye to eye on vagueness, but diverge on the anti-delegation doctrine.

      1. Agreed. But he now has leftist judges agreeing to slam “vague” congressional action (EPA being a major culprit of abusing exactly this). I am hoping this is a long term tactic to hold their feet to the fire.

        Either way, I do not see this as Gorsuch going limp on conservative issues as much as holding the federal government accountable.

        1. I don’t think it represents limpness in conservative issues at all, but it’s also not really the start of anything. It’s not as if this is the first time that liberals have found a statute unconstitutionally vague. Heck, it’s not even the first time Gorsuch has sided with them in doing so

          In other words, nobody broke any new ground today.

          (Also, note that this case didn’t involve any delegation of any authority to the executive beyond, I suppose, charging decisions that are necessarily individualized and that by themselves punish nobody. The branch of government that was figuring out what this statute meant, so to speak, was the judiciary, and the actual work of applying it was largely being done by juries).

  23. Both sides have written logical and reasonable justifications. My final thought is that Gorsuch is declaring war here on Congress writing “vague” laws and leaving it to the Bureaucracy or the Courts to flesh these laws out. If this is his opening salvo, he has rope-a-doped the Leftist Justices to support him on this issue and will hang it around their necks as cases come before the court in the near future addressing this dereliction of duty that Congress has practiced all too often to avoid their constituents holding them accountable for actually doing their jobs. So, I hesitantly support this…..

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