Jenner & Block

Supreme Court Decision Reflects Multi-Year Firm Effort to Achieve Criminal Law Reform

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling of major importance in criminal law, particularly in narcotics cases, announced on June 17, 2013, reflected a multi-year effort by Jenner & Block in support of this significant reform.  The Court’s decision in Alleyne v. United States that, because mandatory minimum sentences increase the penalty for a crime, any fact that increases the mandatory minimum is an “element” that must be found by the jury.  This ruling reflected the firm’s position in an amicus brief filed in Alleyne, on behalf of New York University School of Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law (CACL). 

The brief, prepared by a team led by Partners Anthony S. Barkow, Samuel L. Feder and Matthew S. Hellman and including Associates Jacob L. Tracer and Ann K. Wagner, was the third brief on this issue that the firm filed on behalf of the CACL, a nonprofit established and headed by Tony before he joined Jenner & Block. 

An earlier amicus brief filedby the firm in United States v O’Brien on behalf of CACL was acknowledged by reference by the Court in its 2010 decision in that case, which embraced the firm’s argument that a 2002 Supreme Court decision in Harris v. U.S. should be overruled the next time the issue was squarely presented.  Alleyne was the next case presenting the issue, and the Court followed through.  The O’Brien brief was prepared by a team also led by Sam and including Partner Jessica Ring Amunson.