U.S. Supreme Court holds rare May sitting on May 4

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held its May argument sitting on May 4, hearing one case in a one-hour session. In keeping with each sitting of this term, the court heard arguments remotely and provided live audio to the public.

Terry v. United States concerns sentencing reductions for crack cocaine offenses. In 2008, Tarahrick Terry was convicted of and pled guilty to possessing cocaine base, also referred to as crack cocaine, with the intent to distribute. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, modifying the weight limits for drug offenses. In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act, which defined covered offenses, including crack cocaine offenses, and set out rules for making relevant sentencing reductions. Terry petitioned the U.S. district court to reduce his sentence. The district court ruled that his offenses were not covered and were not eligible for reduction. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment. Terry petitioned the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s findings.

The case was originally scheduled for argument on April 20, 2021, but the session was postponed due to a change in legal counsel.

During the 2019-2020 term, the Supreme Court heard 10 hours of oral argument in 13 cases during its May argument session. Those cases had been postponed from the March and April sittings earlier in the term due to public health recommendations in response to COVID-19. According to SCOTUSblog, the last time the Supreme Court held a full May sitting was during the 1968 October Term.

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