Alleyne v. United States

A jury found Allen Alleyne guilty of robbery under a federal statue, but the jury did not find him guilty of brandishing a weapon during the robbery. A federal criminal statute provides that a judge can raise the mandatory minimum sentence for robbery with a finding that it was more likely than not that the defendant brandished a firearm. Thus, a judge’s finding can raise the mandatory minimum prison sentence even when a jury was unable to come to that same conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court allowed such findings from judges in Harris v. United States. Now, the court will reconsider that position or have the opportunity to further clarify how much sentencing discretion can be given to judges under federal statutes.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Whether this Court’s decision in Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002), should be overruled.



Should the Supreme Court overrule Harris v. United States and require that a jury find facts beyond a reasonable doubt in order to enhance a sentence beyond the ordinarily prescribed statutory maximum?


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Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

Respondent Caroline Behrend et al., cable television subscribers, brought an antitrust class action against Petitioner Comcast Corporation alleging anticompetitive activity. In order to be certified as a class, Respondents had to present evidence that they suffered damages on a class-wide basis. The evidence they submitted consisted of a damages model prepared by their expert witness. Comcast challenges the District Court’s reliance upon that evidence, claiming that it is inadmissible under standards set forth in Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U. S. 579 (1993). In this case, the Supreme Court will address whether evidence presented in support of class certification must be admissible under those standards. The decision will likely significantly impact the ability of plaintiffs to certify as a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, and it may also affect underlying commercial conduct, such as the future use of territory-swapping and clustering agreements. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

May a district court certify a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 without resolving whether the plaintiff class has introduced admissible evidence to show that they may be awarded damages on a class-wide basis?


May a district court certify a class action without resolving “merits arguments” that bear on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23’s prerequisites for certification, including whether purportedly common issues predominate over individual ones under Rule 23(b)(3)?


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The authors would like to thank former Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions Frank Wagner for his assistance in editing this preview.

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Federal Rules of Evidence

(As amended to December 1, 2013)

Effective Date and Application of Rules

Pub. L. 93–595, §1, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1926, provided: “That the following rules shall take effect on the one hundred and eightieth day [July 1, 1975] beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act [Jan. 2, 1975]. These rules apply to actions, cases, and proceedings brought after the rules take effect. These rules also apply to further procedure in actions, cases, and proceedings then pending, except to the extent that application of the rules would not be feasible, or would work injustice, in which event former evidentiary principles apply.”

Historical Note

The Federal Rules of Evidence were adopted by order of the Supreme Court on Nov. 20, 1972, transmitted to Congress by the Chief Justice on Feb. 5, 1973, and to have become effective on July 1, 1973. Pub. L. 93–12, Mar. 30, 1973, 87 Stat. 9, provided that the proposed rules “shall have no force or effect except to the extent, and with such amendments, as they may be expressly approved by Act of Congress”. Pub. L. 93–595, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1926, enacted the Federal Rules of Evidence proposed by the Supreme Court, with amendments made by Congress, to take effect on July 1, 1975.

The Rules have been amended Oct. 16, 1975, Pub. L. 94–113, §1, 89 Stat. 576, eff. Oct. 31, 1975; Dec. 12, 1975, Pub. L. 94–149, §1, 89 Stat. 805; Oct. 28, 1978, Pub. L. 95–540, §2, 92 Stat. 2046; Nov. 6, 1978, Pub. L. 95–598, title II, §251, 92 Stat. 2673, eff. Oct. 1, 1979; Apr. 30, 1979, eff. Dec. 1, 1980; Apr. 2, 1982, Pub. L. 97–164, title I, §142, title IV, §402, 96 Stat. 45, 57, eff. Oct. 1, 1982; Oct. 12, 1984, Pub. L. 98–473, title IV, §406, 98 Stat. 2067; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Oct. 1, 1987; Apr. 25, 1988, eff. Nov. 1, 1988; Nov. 18, 1988, Pub. L. 100–690, title VII, §§7046, 7075, 102 Stat. 4400, 4405; Jan. 26, 1990, eff. Dec. 1, 1990; Apr. 30, 1991, eff. Dec. 1, 1991; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 29, 1994, eff. Dec. 1, 1994; Sept. 13, 1994, Pub. L. 103–322, title IV, §40141, title XXXII, §320935, 108 Stat. 1918, 2135; Apr. 11, 1997, eff. Dec. 1, 1997; Apr. 24, 1998, eff. Dec. 1, 1998; Apr. 17, 2000, eff. Dec. 1, 2000; Mar. 27, 2003, eff. Dec. 1, 2003; Apr. 12, 2006, eff. Dec. 1, 2006; Sept. 19, 2008, Pub. L. 110–322, §1(a), 122 Stat. 3537; Apr. 28, 2010, eff. Dec. 1, 2010; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011; Apr. 16, 2013, eff. Dec. 1, 2013.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

Rule 803. Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay

The following are not excluded by the rule against hearsay, regardless of whether the declarant is available as a witness:

(1) Present Sense Impression. A statement describing or explaining an event or condition, made while or immediately after the declarant perceived it.

(2) Excited Utterance. A statement relating to a startling event or condition, made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement that it caused.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

insufficient evidence

Evidence which fails to meet the burden of proof.  In a trial, if the prosecution finishes presenting their case and the judge finds they have not met their burden of proof, the judge may dismiss the case (even before the defense presents their side) for insufficient evidence.

Insufficient evidence may even be grounds for appeal.




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