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 June 25, 2023

Joe Biden's Supreme Court Justice sides with conservatives on gun crime provision

President Biden's Supreme Court pick Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joined with the Court's conservatives and ruled to reduce prison sentences for some gun crime offenders.

In a massive 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that some gun-related sentences can be served concurrently, marking a big change that will allow District courts more discretion in sentencing for gun related crimes.

Lawrence Rosenberg, who represented the plaintiffs in the case celebrated the decision saying, "We are thrilled that the Court preserved the longstanding default of discretion in criminal sentencing, restoring courts’ discretion to impose either concurrent or consecutive sentences in this case and others like it."

Rosenberg's statement continued saying, "The Court’s decision to enforce the plain text that Congress enacted will help ensure that a defendant’s sentence fits both the crime and the individual."

Unanimous ruling

The case, Lora v United States, was technical but also important for forcing consistency in the law.

Efrain Lora was a Bronx drug dealer who received consecutive sentences totaling 30 years for the murder of a rival drug dealer.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson argued that "We must implement the design Congress chose," when explaining why she ruled with the rest of the court.

It is good to see that even the liberal Justices on the Supreme Court still believe that Congressional legislation should dictate interpretation of law.

The case was concerned with two sections of U.S. law. Section 924(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, requires a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for possessing a gun while carrying out a violent or drug-related crime.

Section 924(j) prescribes the death sentence and life imprisonment for people charged under Section 924 (c) when their conduct results in death.

Justice Jackson wrote, "To state the obvious again, subsection (j) is not located within subsection (c). Nor does subsection (j) call for imposing any sentence from subsection (c). Instead, subsection (j) provides its own set of penalties. A sentence for a §924(j) conviction therefore can run either concurrently with or consecutively to another sentence."

Justice upheld

Lora will still face the consequences for his role in the death of Andrew Balcarran in August 2002. But for many defendants, this decision offers them a path to reducing sentences that may have been too long.

James E. Coleman Jr., a professor at Duke University School of Law, said on Friday that, "I would expect that a lot of the defendants will now ask for reconsideration of their sentences."

Considering our overpopulated prison systems, any reforms that optimize our system are welcome. As for the Biden administration, it's likely they aren't too thrilled to see Justice Jackson falling in line with the rest of the court.

Written By:
Robert Hoel

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