Begay, Begone! ACCA, Aaak!

I’ve posted recently on some of the fallout from the Supreme Court’s April decision in Begay v.United States, but not yet commented on Begay itself.  It is a remarkable case.  After twelve convictions in state court for DUI, Begay was convicted in federal court for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  The sentencing judge found that his prior DUI felony convictions qualified Begay for a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which applies to felon-in-possession defendants who have at least three prior convictions for a “violent felony.”  The Supreme Court reversed, determining that DUI is a not a “violent felony.”  I think this was the right result, but it was reached by the wrong means.

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Shut Up, I’m Talking!

is the title of a great book by Gregory Levey that I read this summer about his surprising journey from law school to speechwriter for the Prime Minister of Israel. Levey is a Canadian who, after surviving his first year of law school at an unnamed New York law school decided that he needed a break and planned to join the Israeli army. I imagine that one of the reasons the law school remains unnamed is, as Levey puts it, when thinking about his reasons for joining the Israeli army, “Anyone who’s ever gone to law school will understand when I say that, at the time, the risk of being shot at or blown up by Islamic Jihad, or perhaps kidnapped by the Hezbollah and taken to Iran to be tortured and murdered, seemed almost preferable to the notion of continuing to suffer through another semester of classes.”

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The Scope of IRCA Preemption

Scales Thanks to Ross Runkel for bringing to my attention this case from the 9th Circuit concerning whether the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA)  is preempted by Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).  In CPLC v. Napolitano (9th Cir 09/17/2008), the court examined LAWA, which allows state courts to suspend or revoke the business licenses of employers who knowingly or intentionally hire “unauthorized aliens.”  As Ross explains:

That act also requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system (an internet-based system that allows an employer to verify an employee’s work authorization status).


The 9th Circuit rejected various facial challenges to the Act, concluding (among other things) that it is not expressly preempted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).  In reaching that conclusion, the court determined that the Act fell within the scope of the “savings clause” of IRCA’s express preemption provision as a “licensing law.”

So it seems that IRCA, like ERISA, recognizes federalism concerns by exempting certain types of state laws that have historically been in the domain of state regulation.

Cross posted at Workplace Prof Blog.

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