Residual Clauses Down In Flames!

Towards the end of the 2014 term, the Supreme Court decided Johnson v. United States , No. 13-7120 (S. Ct. June 26, 2015) in which it held that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) violated “the Constitution’s prohibition of vague criminal laws.” Last week, the Sixth Circuit, in United States v. Darden (Case No. 14-5537), held that the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson also applied to the residual clause of the career offender guideline, USSG §4B1.2(a).

The panel ruled that: “In Johnson v. United States , the Supreme Court held that the identically worded residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act is void for vagueness. Compare U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) with 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). We have previously interpreted both residual clauses identically, see United States v. Ford , 560 F.3d 420, 421 (6th Cir. 2009); United States v. Houston , 187 F.3d 593, 594–95 (6th Cir. 1999), and Darden deserves the same relief as Johnson : the vacating of his sentence.”

Darden made quick work out of that lingering guideline question teed up by Johnson . Now, the looming question is the retroactive application of Johnson to those who are serving either ACCA or career offender sentences based on the residual clauses of either that statute or guideline. Stay Tuned!