Brief of Amicus Curiae National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Support of Respondents
Argument: The government’s proposed use of constitutional avoidance would be unprecedented. This Court has never used constitutional avoidance to broaden a criminal statute. The government’s proposal would broaden the application of the Section 924(c) Residual Clause. This Court never has used constitutional avoidance to interpret identical language in related statutes to mean different things, as the government has proposed here. The government’s proposed use of constitutional avoidance would reduce the canon to an arbitrary tool with dangerous rule-of-law implications. The government’s proposed use of constitutional avoidance is irreconcilable with the due process right to fair notice. The government’s proposed use of constitutional avoidance fundamentally is at odds with the rule of lenity and the principles of fairness underlying the rule. The rule of lenity requires that ambiguous criminal statutes be construed in the defendant’s favor. Application of the rule of lenity is necessary to uphold the separation of powers and protect principles of fairness.
Brief of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and National Association of Federal Defenders as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner.
Argument: The denial of a proportional sentence reduction without explanation undermines the purpose of Section 3582(c)(2) and the sentencing regime. Section 3582(c)(2) is intended to remedy “systemic injustice” and to provide “systemic relief.” In practice, courts typically grant proportional reductions and provide reasons when they do not. Denials of proportional reductions without explanation create an appearance of arbitrariness. The anchoring weight of the Guidelines requires district courts to explain decisions to deny proportional reductions. The Guidelines range anchors the court’s weighing of the Section 3553(a) factors at original sentencing. A revised Guidelines range anchors the court’s weighing of the Section 3553(a) factors in deciding a sentence-reduction motion. The depth of reasoning will depend on the circumstances, but no reasoning is not enough.