Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mandates matter

Today's opinion in Luke Patterson's second appeal showcases an unfortunate situation in which the appeal mandate made a big difference. The case breaks down into four rounds.

In Round One – Patterson's initial sentencing – he avoided the 15-year mandatory minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act because the trial court refused to treat his prior Ohio aggravated burglary convictions as "violent felonies."

But in Round TwoPatterson's first appeal  the government cross-appealed, and the Sixth Circuit ultimately agreed that Patterson should've been sentenced under ACCA. The court's mandate said that it "reverse[d] the ruling that Patterson did not have three previous convictions for a violent felony, vacate[d] Patterson's sentence, and remand[ed] for re-sentencing."

In Round Three – Patterson’s re-sentencing – Patterson argued that his three offenses should instead be treated as one for purposes of ACCA. But the trial court felt itself constrained by the Sixth Circuit’s mandate, and imposed the 15-year mandatory minimum.

Which brings us to Round Four – Peterson's second appeal, which prompted today's decision in United States v. Patterson, No. 17-3706

In this second appeal, Peterson argued that the trial court erred in refusing to consider his "single offense" argument on remand. But the Sixth Circuit disagreed, relying on the two components of the "mandate rule" from United States v. O'Dell, 320 F.3d 674 (6th Cir. 2003)
  1. The mandate from the first appeal permitted only a limited remand, not a remand where Patterson could again challenge his ACCA designation.
  2. Patterson could not re-raise on remand an issue ripe for review during his initial appeal.
The Sixth Circuit, "out of an abundance of caution," also decided that the "single offense" argument lacked merit.

The court's strict application of the rule from O'Dell highlights the (somewhat daunting) importance of raising issues on appeal that may be at play if the case is remanded.

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