Logan v. United States, No. 06–6911.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation169 L.Ed.2d 432,76 USLW 4005,07 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 13846,2007 Daily Journal D.A.R. 17808,21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 8,552 U.S. 23,128 S.Ct. 475
Decision Date04 December 2007
Docket NumberNo. 06–6911.
PartiesJames D. LOGAN, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES.

07 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 13,846
128 S.Ct. 475
169 L.Ed.2d 432
2007 Daily Journal D.A.R. 17,808
21 Fla.
L. Weekly Fed. S 8
552 U.S. 23
76 USLW 4005

James D. LOGAN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES.

No. 06–6911.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Oct. 30, 2007.Decided Dec. 4, 2007.


[128 S.Ct. 476]

[552 U.S. 23]

Syllabus *

Under federal law, the maximum prison term for a felon convicted of possessing a firearm is ordinarily 10 years. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). If the offender's prior criminal record includes at least three convictions for “violent felon[ies,]” however, the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA) mandates a minimum term of 15 years. See § 924(e)(1). Congress defined the term “violent felony” to include specified crimes “punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year,” § 924(e)(2)(B), but also provided that a state-law misdemeanor may qualify as a “violent felony” if the offense is punishable by a term of more than two years, § 921(a)(20)(B). Congress amended § 921(a)(20) in 1986 to exclude from qualification for enhanced sentencing “any conviction which has been expunged, or set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil rights [ i.e., rights to vote, hold office, and serve on a jury] restored.”

Petitioner Logan pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and received a 15–year sentence, the mandatory minimum under ACCA. In imposing this sentence, the court took account of [128 S.Ct. 477] three Wisconsin misdemeanor battery convictions, each of them punishable by a 3–year maximum sentence, and none of them revoking any of Logan's civil rights. Logan challenged his sentence on the ground that his state-court convictions fell within § 921(a)(20)'s “civil rights restored” exemption from ACCA's reach. Rights retained, Logan argued, should be treated the same as rights revoked but later restored. The District Court disagreed, holding that the exemption applies only to defendants whose civil rights were both lost and restored, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

Held: The exemption contained in § 921(a)(20) does not cover the case of an offender who retained civil rights at all times, and whose legal status, postconviction, remained in all respects unaltered by any state dispensation. Pp. 481 – 485.

(a) The ordinary meaning of the word “restored”—giving back something that has been taken away—does not include retention of something never lost. Moreover, the context in which “restored” appears in § 921(a)(20) counsels adherence to the word's ordinary meaning. In § 921(a)(20), the words “civil rights restored” appear in the company of

[552 U.S. 24]

“expunged,” “set aside,” and “pardoned.” Each of those terms describes a measure by which the government relieves an offender of some or all of the consequences of his conviction. In contrast, a defendant who retains rights is simply left alone. He receives no status-altering dispensation, no token of forgiveness from the government. Pp. 481 – 482.

(b) Logan's dominant argument against a plain-meaning approach is not persuasive. He relies on the harsh result a literal reading could yield: Unless retention of rights is treated as legally equivalent to restoration of rights, he maintains, less serious offenders will be subject to ACCA's enhanced penalties while more serious offenders in the same State, who have had civil rights restored, may escape heightened punishment. Logan urges that this result is not merely anomalous; it is absurd, particularly in States where restoration of civil rights occurs automatically upon release from prison. Pp. 482 – 483.

Logan's harsh or absurd consequences argument overlooks § 921(a)(20)'s “unless” clause, under which an offender gains no exemption from ACCA's application through an expungement, set-aside, pardon, or restoration of civil rights if the dispensation “expressly provides that the [offender] may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.” Many States that restore felons' civil rights (or accord another measure of forgiveness) nonetheless impose or retain firearms disabilities. Further, Wisconsin no longer punishes misdemeanors by more than two years' imprisonment, and thus no longer has any misdemeanors that qualify as ACCA predicates. Pp. 482 – 483.

The resolution Logan proposes, in any event, would correct one potential anomaly while creating others. Under Logan's proposed construction, all crimes, including first-degree murder, would be treated as crimes for which “civil rights [have been] restored” in a State that does not revoke any offender's civil rights, while less serious crimes committed elsewhere would not. Accepting Logan's argument would also undercut § 921(a)(20)(B), which subjects to ACCA state misdemeanor convictions punishable by more than two years' imprisonment. Because misdemeanors generally entail no revocation of civil rights, reading the word “restored” to include “retained” would yield this curiosity: An offender would fall within ACCA's reach if his three prior offenses carried potential prison terms of over two years, [128 S.Ct. 478] but would be released from ACCA's grip by virtue of his retention of civil rights. This Court is disinclined to say that what Congress imposed with one hand (exposure to ACCA) it withdrew with the other (exemption from ACCA). Even assuming that when Congress revised § 921(a)(20) in 1986, it labored under the misapprehension that all misdemeanants and felons at least temporarily forfeit civil rights, and indulging the further assumption that courts may repair such a congressional oversight or mistake,

[552 U.S. 25]

this Court is not equipped to say what statutory alteration, if any, Congress would have made had its attention trained on offenders who retained civil rights; nor can the Court recast § 921(a)(20) in Congress' stead. Pp. 483 – 484.

Section 922(g)(9)—which was adopted 10 years after § 921(a)(20) was given its current shape and which outlaws possession of a firearm by anyone “convicted ... of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence”—cautions against any assumption that Congress did not mean to deny the § 921(a)(20) exemption to offenders who retained their civil rights. Tailored to § 922(g)(9), Congress adopted a definitional provision, § 921(a)(33)(B)(ii), corresponding to § 921(a)(20), which specifies expungement, set-aside, pardon, or restoration of rights as dispensations that can cancel lingering effects of a conviction. That provision also demonstrates that the words “civil rights restored” do not cover a person whose civil rights were never taken away. It provides for restoration of civil rights as a qualifying dispensation only “if the law of the applicable jurisdiction provides for the loss of civil rights” in the first place. Section 921(a)(33)(B)(ii) also rebuts Logan's absurdity argument. Statutory terms may be interpreted against their literal meaning where the words could not conceivably have been intended to apply to the case at hand. See, e.g., Green v. Bock Laundry Machine Co., 490 U.S. 504, 511, 109 S.Ct. 1981, 104 L.Ed.2d 557. In § 921(a)(33)(B)(ii), however, Congress explicitly distinguished between “restored” and “retained,” thereby making it more than conceivable that the Legislature, albeit an earlier one, meant to do the same in § 921(a)(20). Pp. 484 – 485.

453 F.3d 804, affirmed.

GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Richard A. Coad, Madison, WI, for petitioner.

Daryl Joseffer, Washington, DC, for respondent.

Jeffrey T. Green, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, D.C., Richard A. Coad, Madison, WI, Brian T. Fahl, Counsel of Record, Milwaukee, WI, for Petitioner.Paul D. Clement, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Alice S. Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Dreeben, Deputy Solicitor General, Daryl Joseffer, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Joel M. Gershowitz, Attorney, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for respondent.Justice GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.

[552 U.S. 26]

Petitioner James D. Logan pleaded guilty in a United States District Court to being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Logan's record as a recidivist, which included three relevant state convictions, led the District Court to impose a 15–year prison term, the minimum sentence mandated by the [128 S.Ct. 479] Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1) (2000 ed., Supp. V). For ACCA sentence-enhancement purposes, a prior conviction may be disregarded if the conviction “has been expunged, or set aside,” or the offender “has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored.” § 921(a)(20) (2000 ed.). None of Logan's prior convictions have been expunged or set aside. Nor has he been pardoned for any past crime. And, bearing importantly on the instant petition, the three state-court convictions that triggered Logan's ACCA-enhanced sentence occasioned no loss of civil rights.

Challenging his enhanced sentence, Logan presents this question: Does the “civil rights restored” exemption contained in § 921(a)(20) encompass, and therefore remove from ACCA's reach, state-court convictions that at no time deprived the offender of civil rights? We hold that the § 921(a)(20) exemption provision does not cover the case of an offender who retained civil rights at all times, and whose legal status, postconviction, remained in all respects unaltered by any state dispensation.

Section 921(a)(20) sets out postconviction events—expungement, set aside, pardon, or restoration of civil rights—that extend to an offender a measure of forgiveness, relieving him from some or all of the consequences of his conviction. Congress might have broadened the § 921(a)(20) exemption provision to cover convictions attended by no loss of civil rights. The national lawmakers, however, did not do so. Section 921(a)(20)'s failure to exempt convictions that do not revoke civil rights produces anomalies. But so does the extension of the §...

To continue reading

Request your trial
151 practice notes
  • Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule
    • United States
    • Federal Register June 03, 2010
    • June 3, 2010
    ...nevertheless clearly acknowledged the validity of the doctrine. Some of the more recent of these cases include: Logan v. United States, 552 U.S. 23, 36-37 (2007) (``[s]tatutory terms, we have held, may be interpreted against their literal meaning where the `could not conceivably have been i......
  • Buchmeier v. U.S., No. 06-2958.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • September 10, 2009
    ...did not mention a firearms disability, the eight burglary convictions are removed from the federal calculus. Logan v. United States, 552 U.S. 23, 128 S.Ct. 475, 169 L.Ed.2d 432 (2007), holds that, if a person never loses any of the "big three" civil rights, then they cannot be "restored" fo......
  • People v. Delacy, No. A125803.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 25, 2011
    ...enhancements for similar circumstances, depending upon the state of the defendant's original conviction. In Logan v. United States (2007) 552 U.S. 23, 128 S.Ct. 475, 169 L.Ed.2d 432, the defendant argued his sentence enhancement under section 924(e)(1) of title 18 of the United States Code ......
  • Day v. James Marine, Inc., No. 06-4004.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • March 7, 2008
    ...sentence of one of those subsections. If words are known by the surrounding "company they keep," Logan v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 128 S.Ct. 475, 482, 169 L.Ed.2d 432 (2007), they are surely known by how they are used in the surrounding sections of the same statute, see, e.g., Powerex C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
150 cases
  • Buchmeier v. U.S., No. 06-2958.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • September 10, 2009
    ...did not mention a firearms disability, the eight burglary convictions are removed from the federal calculus. Logan v. United States, 552 U.S. 23, 128 S.Ct. 475, 169 L.Ed.2d 432 (2007), holds that, if a person never loses any of the "big three" civil rights, then they cannot be "restored" fo......
  • People v. Delacy, No. A125803.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 25, 2011
    ...enhancements for similar circumstances, depending upon the state of the defendant's original conviction. In Logan v. United States (2007) 552 U.S. 23, 128 S.Ct. 475, 169 L.Ed.2d 432, the defendant argued his sentence enhancement under section 924(e)(1) of title 18 of the United States Code ......
  • Day v. James Marine, Inc., No. 06-4004.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • March 7, 2008
    ...sentence of one of those subsections. If words are known by the surrounding "company they keep," Logan v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 128 S.Ct. 475, 482, 169 L.Ed.2d 432 (2007), they are surely known by how they are used in the surrounding sections of the same statute, see, e.g., Powerex C......
  • Sony BMG Music Ent. v. Tenenbaum, Nos. 10–1883
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • September 16, 2011
    ...by further legislation.” United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 620, 74 S.Ct. 808, 98 L.Ed. 989 (1954); see also Logan v. United States, 552 U.S. 23, 26–27, 128 S.Ct. 475, 169 L.Ed.2d 432 (2007) (refusing to stray from statutory text). Asking us to ignore the text and the plain meaning of ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • THE TRAJECTORY OF FEDERAL GUN CRIMES.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 3, February 2022
    • February 1, 2022
    ...544 U.S. 385 (2005); Dixon v. United States, 548 U.S. 1 (2006); James v. United States, 550 U.S. 192 (2007); Logan v. United States, 552 U.S. 23 (2007); Watson v. United States, 552 U.S. 74 (2007); Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008); United States v. Rodriquez, 553 U.S. 377 (2008);......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT