Scalia, Alito Split On Federal Criminal Law
In James v. US, a case interpreting the Armed Career Criminal Act (I confess I had no idea this law existed before today), Justice Scalia and Alito disagreed. Justice Alito, writing for the Court, opined that "attempted burglary," as defined by Florida law, is a "violent offense" under the ACCA, relevant to the sentencing of James. Three prior "violent offenses" convictions, as defined by the ACCA, mandated a 15 year sentence.
In dissent, Justice Scalia objected to Alito's opinion, arguing that Alito gave no guidance to lower courts for determining what "residual offenses" would fall under the ACCA's "violent offenses" provision, labeling Alito's approach "entirely ad hoc."
Scalia invokes ejusdem generis, and advocates for the standard that "residual offenses" must be at least as likely to cause violence as the least risky specific offense listed. Applying this standard, Scalia finds attempted burglary is even less risky than what he deems to be the least risky offense, burglary. That last conclusion obviously makes sense. I would not venture a guess on the rest of his analysis.
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