Oral argument: April 17, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Nov. 28, 2011)
On August 3, 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act (“FSA”), which reduced the disparity between the amounts of crack and powder cocaine required to trigger certain minimum mandatory sentences under the federal Sentencing Guidelines. Petitioners Edward Dorsey and Corey Hill were both arrested for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute prior to the FSA’s passage, but were both sentenced after the FSA was enacted. Under the pre-FSA guidelines, they received ten-year prison sentences, but under the new FSA guidelines, both would have received substantially shorter prison sentences. Dorsey, Hill, and the United States government all argue that Congress intended for the FSA to apply immediately, and therefore, all prisoners sentenced after August 3, 2010, including Dorsey and Hill, should have been sentenced according to the FSA. Miguel Estrada, a court-appointed amicus curiae writing in support of the judgments below, argues that nothing indicates that Congress intended for immediate effectiveness and that the federal Saving Statute prevents retroactive application of new statutes that would eliminate previously incurred penalties. The decision in these cases will have implications for the consistent application of the FSA to prisoners falling within this particular sentencing window, as well as potential social costs and burdens on the justice system.