Supreme Court hears arguments on violent felonies, agency actions

Supreme Court hears arguments on violent felonies, agency actions

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday in two cases. In Welch v. US [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments on whether [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] a robbery under Florida state law constitutes a violent felony for sentencing purposes under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) [materials, PDF]. As a second issue, the court considered whether its decision in Johnson v. US [opinion, PDF], decided in June 2015, announced a new substantive rule regarding what constitutes a violent offense and whether it applies retroactively. The case arose [Oyez summary] when Gregory Welch was sentenced to 15 years in prison under the ACCA for felony possession of a firearm. The sentence was mandated at least 15 years because Welch had three previous felony convictions. Welch argued that one of his prior convictions, a “strong arm” robbery in Florida in 1996, fell under the ACCA definition of a predicate offense that required the 15 year minimum sentence. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] affirmed the district court’s determination that Welch’s “strong arm” robbery conviction fell under the definition because it was “capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person,” which satisfied the standard the Supreme Court established in Johnson v. US.

The court also heard arguments in US Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc. [transcript, PDF] on whether [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the US Army Corps of Engineers’ determination that the property at issue constitutes “water of the United States” constitutes a “final agency action” subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedures Act [materials]. The case arose [Oyez summary] when Hawkes attempted to purchase land in northern Minnesota to mine peat. US Army Corps submitted an Approved Jurisdictional Determination and argued that the land was a wetland connected to “waters of the United States” and was therefore protected under the Clean Water Act [materials]. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] reversed the district court decision and held that the determination was a final agency action and remanded the action for judicial review as per Hawkes’ request.