Last week Justice Gorsuch put the smack down on a lazy Congress by joining the court’s more liberal justices. “In our constitutional order, a vague law is no law at all,” he wrote in his opinion. 

He was discussing a statute that “threatens long prison sentences” for people who use firearms during the act of committing a crime “that by [their] nature, involv[e] a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”

Justice Gorsuch declared that unconstitutional.  Here’s how Fox News described it:

Gorsuch sided with liberal justices in a 5-4 decision in United States v. Davis, for which he wrote the opinion of the court. The law in question calls for longer sentences when a person uses a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence,” which is defined as a felony “that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.” That definition is rather confusing, Gorsuch said.

Even the government admits that this language … provides no reliable way to determine which offenses qualify as crimes of violence and thus is unconstitutionally vague,” he wrote. Vague laws leave it to unelected attorneys and judges to determine what acts qualify as crimes, Gorsuch said, when it is really Congress’ job to make that decision with the laws that they pass.

In the current case, Maurice Davis and Andre Glover were convicted of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery under the Hobbs Act, which covers robbery, attempted robbery, or extortion affecting interstate commerce. They were each hit with longer sentences because robbery and conspiracy were found to be “crimes of violence.” An appeals court found that the clause in the statute defining crimes of violence was unconstitutionally vague.

This is considered a defeat for so-called “law and order” conservatives and the Department of Justice.  But, I agree with Judge Gorsuch 100%.

The Hill has more:

…Kavanaugh wrote that striking down the rule “is a serious mistake.” He cited statistics on gun violence, tying gun laws like the one challenged before the court as having “contributed to the decline of violent crime in America.” 

“A decision to strike down a 33-year-old, often-prosecuted federal criminal law because it is all of a sudden unconstitutionally vague is an extraordinary event in this court,” he wrote.

And he warned that the impact of the ruling could be “severe,” arguing that it could lead to the early release of those convicted under the law and “thwart Congress’ law enforcement policies, destabilize the criminal justice system, and undermine safety in American communities.”

Kavanaugh also pointed to other laws throughout the country that similarly do not specifically define a kind of crime, but allow courts to gauge an alleged offense on a case-by-case basis.

Love it.  This caused National Reviewto describe Judge Gorsuch as a “one-man warrior for the constitutional order.”

There is great power in Justice Gorsuch’s consistency. The ideological alignment of the decision matters not. The commitment to constitutional order is paramount. And a fundamental facet of that constitutional order is Congress’s nondelegable duty to write laws that clearly and constitutionally specify Americans’ legal obligations.

That’s a duty that Congress has shirked for decades. Thanks in large part to Justice Gorsuch, it is now being dragged back into its proper constitutional prominence — whether it likes it or not.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Hat Tip: National Review,Fox News, andThe Hill

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at MarkMeckler.com, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.