A Statuary . . I Mean Statutory Argument

“. . . under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward . . . “

Today’s argument in Lockhart v. United States turned on what Congress meant in a statute so poorly drafted Justice Alito gives it a “D”.

The petitioner in this case, Avondale Lockhart, was caught in a child pornography sting and pleaded guilty. At sentencing he faced a mandatory minimum ten-year enhancement because of a previous state conviction for attempted rape of his girlfriend. Lockhart argues that the sentencing enhancement only applies if the prior conviction was for an offense “. . . involving a minor or ward”, and that in the language quoted above “aggravated sexual abuse” and “sexual abuse” are qualified in the same as “abusive sexual conduct”. 

The lower courts, of course, found otherwise.

It sounded like a lively and perplexing argument, and I hear form some of the reporters present that Lockhart may win to some degree.

Art Lien
About

Courtartist is me, Art Lien. I’ve been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I’ve been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980.

Courtroom sketching is a form of visual journalism or reportage drawing that is slowly dying out. Where once upon a time news organization each had their own artist covering a story, today a “pool” artist often sketches for all. It is a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.

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