President Donald Trump’s two nominees to the Supreme Court are proving to be far from cookie-cutter images of one another, as Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh keep finding themselves on opposite sides of issues.
The latest example of this was seen Monday, when Gorsuch joined with the liberals on the court to strike down a federal law that imposes longer sentences on criminal defendants who use a firearm in a crime, arguing the law was unconstitutionally vague, according to the Daily Caller.
Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion on Monday’s ruling.
“In our constitutional order, a vague law is no law at all,” Gorsuch penned. “Only the people’s elected representatives in Congress have the power to write new federal criminal laws. And when Congress exercises that power, it has to write statutes that give ordinary people fair warning about what the law demands of them.
“Vague laws transgress both of those constitutional requirements. They hand off the legislature’s responsibility for defining criminal behavior to unelected prosecutors and judges, and they leave people with no sure way to know what consequences will attach to their conduct.”
He went on to say that the language “provides no reliable way to determine which offenses qualify as crimes of violence and thus is unconstitutionally vague.”
According to Courthousenews.com, “Maurice Davis and Andre Glover had been sentenced to 50 years and 41 years, respectively, under Section 924(c) of Title 18, a residual clause that threatens harsher penalties for those who use guns ‘in connection with certain other federal crimes.'”
Kavanaugh dissented, saying the Court “usually reads statutes with a presumption of rationality and a presumption of constitutionality,” according to Law & Crime.
“A statute is unconstitutionally vague only if ‘it fails to give ordinary people fair notice of the conduct it punishes,’ or is ‘so standardless that it invites arbitrary enforcement,’” he wrote. “Section 924(c)(3)(B) is not unconstitutionally vague. To reiterate, §924(c)(3)(B) defines ‘crime of violence’ as ‘an offense that is a felony and … that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.’”
Gorsuch has sided with the liberal faction of the court before to strike down statutes he saw as too vague.
In April 2018, the Trump nominee provided the fifth vote to “overrule a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits deportation of an alien convicted of an aggravated felony,” the Daily Caller noted.
The majority opinion said a catchall provision detailing convictions that qualified as an aggravated felony was too imprecise.
Gorsuch helped hand a victory to Democrats last week as the Supreme Court ruled against the Virginia House of Delegates in a racial gerrymandering case — the GOP controls the House by a 51-49 margin.
He sided with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, although the fifth vote came from Justice Clarence Thomas, who is seen as the most conservative jurist on the high court.
“How ‘did we ever reach the point where’ we ‘must debate whether a carjacking in which an assailant struck a 13-year-old girl in the mouth with a baseball bat and a cohort fired an AK–47 at her family is a crime of violence?” Kavanaugh quoted from the case. “It’s nuts.”
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