Supreme Court To Address If Mandatory Minimums Ruling Applies To Past Convictions

Justices will hear case asking whether their 2015 ruling limiting the reach of the mandatory minimum sentencing requirement in the Armed Career Criminal Act should apply retroactively.

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On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would be hearing the case of Gregory Welch — a man sentenced to 15 years in prison because of a mandatory minimum sentencing requirement in the Armed Career Criminal Act, part of which was ruled unconstitutional in 2015.

After being found guilty in 2005 of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which would have netted him a sentence of 10 or fewer years, Welch ended up being sentenced to 15 years in prison because the judge found that Welch had three prior violent felony convictions and was therefore subject to the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements under the ACCA.

In 2015, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the part of the law defining the prior violent felony convictions as any felony that “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” — a provision referred to as the residual clause — was unconstitutionally vague.

Since the June 2015 ruling in Johnson v. United States, however, appeals courts have split over whether the decision should apply retroactively. Under the Supreme Court’s prior cases, if the Johnson ruling announced a “substantive” rule, then it would apply retroactively. The Supreme Court on Friday selected Welch’s case — one of several that the justices considered hearing — to address the issue.

The court now will receive a full briefing on the question and schedule oral arguments for this spring. A decision is expected by late June.

Notably, Welch had acted with no lawyer — pro se — in the courts below on the issue and even in his initial filing asking the Supreme Court to take up his case.

From Gregory Welch’s petition asking the Supreme Court to take his case:

Via assets.documentcloud.org

Since that initial filing, however, lawyers with the D.C. office of Jenner & Block — led by Amir Ali — have signed on as Welch’s lawyers.

Here are the Supreme Court documents:

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.
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