[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Tuesday on two cases. In Lockhart v. US [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments on whether [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the mandatory minimum for a child pornography sentence, as found in 18 USC § 2252(b)(2) [text], applies when the offender has previously been convicted of sexual abuse or aggravated sexual abuse, even if the previous offenses did not involve a child. The case involves a man, Avondale Lockhart, who was charged with possession of child pornography on his personal computer and subsequently pleaded guilty. He had been previously been convicted of sexual assault involving his adult girlfriend. The pre-sentencing report for Lockhart recommended that he get the mandatory minimum sentence, but Lockhart is arguing that the mandate does not apply since his previous offenses did not involve minors. Both lower courts concluded that the minimum sentence did apply to Lockhart.
The court also heard arguments in Torres v. Lynch [transcript, PDF] on whether [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] a state offense constitutes an aggravated felony 8 USC § 1101(a)(43) [text] when a resident is subject to removal for the offense and the federal statute describes the state offense but also includes an interstate commerce element that the state offense lacks. The case involves a man, Jorge Luna Torres, who pleaded guilty to attempted arson in 1999 and was told by immigration officials in 2006 that he was subject to deportation. The arson conviction is a felony under New York law, but the federal statute includes the following language (in italics) that the New York statute does not: “Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” Both lower courts denied Torres’ petition for cancellation of the removal order.