Supreme Court rules in sentencing, railroad property valuation cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down unanimous decisions in two cases Tuesday, including Logan v. US [LII case backgrounder] where the Court held a defendant's misdemeanor convictions that did not result in him losing civil rights nonetheless allow a longer sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) [44 USC 924 text]. Under the ACCA, so-called "career criminals" may be subjected to longer sentences if the defendant has three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses. James Logan argued that his three previous misdemeanor battery convictions should not count toward ACCA sentencing because he did not lose his civil rights, but the Supreme Court rejected that argument, affirming the Seventh Circuit's decision [PDF text] in the case. Logan's appeal was based on an ACCA provision which allows prior convictions to be disregarded if the defendant "has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored," but the Court rejected his argument:

We hold that the §921(a)(20) exemption provision does not cover the case of an offender who retained civil rights at all times, and whose legal status, postconviction, remained in all respects unaltered by any state dispensation.
Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Ginsburg. AP has more.

In CSX Transportation v. Georgia State Board of Equalization [LII case backgrounder], the Court held that a railroad may challenge a state's method of determining property value for tax purposes. CSX had attempted to challenge Georgia's valuation method as improper, but lower courts ruled that the railroad company was not permitted to challenge the valuation under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976. The Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit's decision [PDF text], writing:
The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act prohibits States from discriminating against railroads by taxing railroad property more heavily than other commercial property in the State. Two decades ago, we held that this statute permits an aggrieved railroad to challenge a State's valuation of its property for tax purposes. Burlington Northern R. Co. v. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n, 481 U. S. 454, 462 (1987). Because the railroad in that case challenged only the State's application of its valuation methods, we expressly reserved the question whether a railroad may challenge the State's methods themselves. We answer that question today, and hold that railroads may challenge state methods for determining the value of railroad property, as well as how those methods are applied. The statute provides for nothing less.
Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts. AP has more.


 

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