Davis v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: March 23, 2020
  • Case #: 19–5421
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam
  • Full Text Opinion

When a plain error affects substantial rights, neither Rule 52(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor federal precedent shields any category of errors from plain-error review.

Petitioner was convicted for firearm and drug charges. Petitioner had additional pending drug and firearm charges from a separate arrest, and the district court ordered that his current sentence run consecutively to any sentence imposed for the pending charges. Petitioner did not raise an objection to the sentence nor to it running consecutively. Petitioner appealed to the Fifth Circuit and argued, for the first time, that the district court erred in ordering a consecutive sentence because his offenses were part of the “same course of conduct” and should run concurrently. The Fifth Circuit refused to consider Petitioner’s argument, stating that it raised factual issues and was not subject to plain-error review. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Fifth Circuit erred in refusing to apply plain-error review to Petitioner’s argument. The Court cited Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(b), which states that “[a] plain error that affects substantial rights may be considered even though it was not brought to the court’s attention.” The Court reasoned that the text of the rule does not preclude factual errors from being reviewed for plain error. The Court further reasoned that there is no caselaw precluding any one category of error from plain-error review. Therefore, the Fifth Circuit had no legal basis for declining to review Petitioner’s unpreserved argument for plain error. VACATED and REMANDED. 

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