Thursday, April 19, 2018

Serving as a juror. The Court assumed, without deciding, that the inability to serve as a juror is a collateral conseqence of a conviction is sufficient to support a writ of coram nobis in Porcelli v. United States. This did not help Porcelli because the Court denied the petition on the merits. The decision can be found here.
Correction. No, this is not a correction of a misstatement I have made on this blog -- or anywhere else for that matter. I am correcting a misstatement of fact made by Jeffrey Toobin in his fascinating book on the Supreme Court, The Nine. On page 77, Toobin states that Judges Richard Arnold and Morris Arnold "were the only brothers in American history to serve on the same federal court of appeals.


Well, apparently Toobin has never heard of Augustus Hand and Billings Learned Hand of the Second Circuit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ban on Alcohol reversed; rest of sentence OKed

Betts was a bad boy.  He had been convicted of bank fraud, and sentenced to two years imprisonment and five years' supervised release.  The Court had also required that he pay restitution and to notify his probation officer within 72 hours if he was arrested.  Betts had been arrested for driving without a license, and he had not notified his probation officer.  He also had not made the restitution payments.  He pleaded guilty to violating his plea agreement.  He was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment and an additional four years of supervised release.  As part of his sentence, the Court required him to abstain from alcohol use during his supervised release and required substance abuse testing, stating that there would be zero tolerance for the use of any drugs at all.  Betts appealed.

The Second Circuit rejected Betts's position that the four years of supervised release was unreasonable because if was within the Sentencing Guidelines range, although on the high side of the range.  Any sentence within the Guidelines range is deemed presumptively reasonable.  The Court similarly rejected Betts's claim that his offense did not warrant the four years and that the District Court had wrongly rejected his mitigation evidence.

The Court found that the requirement that the zero tolerance for the use of any drugs was permissible, noting that it did not apply to any prescription drugs.

The Court did find that the ban on alcohol was not not reasonably reasonably related to any of the factors outlined in Section 5D1.3(b) of the Guidelines and vacated that provision of the sentence.

The decision in United States v. Betts can be found here.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Preempted by the Organic Foods Production Act

Three parents brought a class action against Abbott Laboratories, Inc., claiming that it had included in its baby formula, which was purported to be "organic," contained ingredients not allowed by the Organic Foods Production Act (the "Act").  Their claims were brought under New York and California statutory and common law.  The trial court dismissed the action, holding that the claims were preempted by federal law.  On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed.  The Act allows Abbott to label its formula organic pursuant to a certified organic plan.  All Abbott did was state that its product was certified organic, which is was.  The Court held that the parents' claim would require an adjudication of the product's organic status, something not envisioned by the Act.  Accordingly, the state law claims were preempted and the case dismissed.  The Second Circuit's decision is in accord with a decision of the Eighth Circuit.

The decision in Marentette v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc. can be found here.