After a Bitter Fight, Justice Kavanaugh to Take the Bench
WASHINGTON — Three days after the fierce battle over his nomination ended in his elevation to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh will join his brand new colleagues on the bench for the 1st time on Tuesday morning, taking a seat on the far right side of the bench, from the spot reserved for the most junior justice.
The court will hear two hours of arguments in three cases, all concerning a complicated in addition to ambiguous federal law of which has long vexed the justices. The cases do not raise questions of high constitutional moment or involve pressing social issues, which may be just as well for a court of which has sustained collateral damage through a confirmation fight marked by bitterness, distrust in addition to raw partisanship.
The law, the Armed Career Criminal Act, can be a kind of three-strikes statute. of which requires stiffer sentences for people convicted of possessing firearms in federal court if they have earlier been found guilty of three violent felonies or serious drug charges.
Figuring out what qualifies as one of those earlier offenses can be not always easy. The first case, Stokeling v. United States, No. 17-5554, concerns a part of the law of which defined violent felonies to include any offense involving the use or threat of physical force. The question from the case can be whether minimal force, as in a purse snatching, can be enough.
The case involves Denard Stokeling, who pleaded guilty to possessing a gun after burglarizing a restaurant in Miami Beach. He had three earlier convictions, in addition to prosecutors argued of which they required a much longer sentence than the one the gun charge would certainly ordinarily have warranted.
Mr. Stokeling objected, saying his 1997 conviction for “unarmed robbery” in state court, arising through a snatched necklace, did not amount to a violent felony. of which meant, he said, of which he should face only a maximum sentence of 10 years rather than a minimum sentence of 15 years.
A trial judge agreed, sentencing Mr. Stokeling to about six years in prison. however the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled of which unarmed robbery under the Florida law necessarily involved the use of force, requiring the longer sentence.
The court will consider another part of the same law in two various other cases — United States v. Stitt, No. 17-765, in addition to United States v. Sims, No. 17-766 — consolidated for one particular hour of arguments.
The law says burglaries are violent felonies of which can require longer sentences. however of which does not specify what qualifies as a burglary.
The Supreme Court has said the crime requires invasion of “a building or structure.” however the defendants from the two cases — Victor Stitt of Tennessee in addition to Jason Sims of Arkansas — were convicted under state laws of which allow prosecutions of burglaries of mobile homes in addition to various other vehicles in which people sleep.
Justice Kavanaugh in addition to his colleagues will have to decide, then, whether a mobile home can be more like a car or a house.
Hours before Tuesday’s arguments were to begin, the scene in front of the court had quieted dramatically through the protests from the same spot from the days after Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed.
Hundreds of people hoping to see the beginning of the brand new justice’s term had gathered quietly from the early hours to claim a spot in one particular-file line for the first oral argument. The demand was such of which security at the court cut off a limited entry line of which typically allows guests to view three minutes of oral arguments in rotation. Some who had arrived before 6 a.m. were told of which they were not guaranteed entry.
Diane Young, an undergraduate at Georgetown University who attended Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, waited in line near a man in a National Rifle Association baseball cap using a copy of a biography of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Unsettled by Justice Kavanaugh’s testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she wanted to see his first day on the bench to know if anything would certainly be different.
“I wanted to see how Justice Kavanaugh would certainly conduct himself on the bench on his first day,” she said. “I’m very interested in how the Supreme Court adjusts its image from the public eye.”
Noah Weiland contributed reporting.
Follow Adam Liptak on Twitter: @adamliptak.