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Friday, February 11, 2005

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit posts two today

St. Charles Mfg Ltd v. Whirlpool Corp (ND Ill.) [6 pp.]

Before FLAUM, Chief Judge, and EVANS and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
EVANS, Circuit Judge. St. Charles Manufacturing Limited Partnership and St. Charles Acquisition Limited Partnership (we’ll refer to both as St. Charles) sued Whirlpool Corporation and Whirlpool Kitchens, Inc. for breach of two contracts which, in part, involve cleanup of environmental contamination at a site in Illinois. In turn, Whirlpool sued St. Charles for damages under the second contract. The district court granted summary judgment for Whirlpool and St. Charles appeals. Our review of a decision granting summary judgment is de novo. CAE, Inc. v. Clean Air Eng’g, Inc., 267 F.3d 660 (7th Cir. 2001). * * * Affirmed

USA v. Edwards, Carl (ND Ill.) [12 pp.]

Before ROVNER, WOOD, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
SYKES, Circuit Judge. All crack is cocaine base but not all cocaine base is crack. This case presents the question of whether this distinction is meaningful for purposes of the enhanced penalties for cocaine base offenses under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b). The statute prescribes a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for the manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to manufacture or distribute 50 grams or more of “cocaine base.” 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). The federal Sentencing Guidelines also call for increased penalties, in the form of heightened base offense levels, for crimes involving “cocaine base.” See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c). But while the Guidelines define “cocaine base” as “crack” for purposes of the higher penalties, see U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c), Note (D), the statute contains no such limiting definition. The question in this case is whether the mandatory minimum sentence in the statute applies, like the Guidelines, to crack offenses only. * * *

A footnote in Adams led the district court in this case to conclude that Booker notwithstanding, the applicability of the statutory ten-year minimum sentence to an offense involving “cocaine base” that is not “crack” is an open question in this circuit. * * * The district court found that the controlled substance in this case was not “crack” but was “cocaine base” and on that basis imposed the mandatory ten-year sentence. Id.

We reverse. Booker held that for purposes of the enhanced penalties in the Guidelines and the statutes “cocaine base” means “crack cocaine.” Booker, 70 F.3d at 489-90, 494. That holding controls here, and we decline to revisit it. We note a substantial divergence among the circuits on this issue. Some circuits, like this one, have equated the statutory term “cocaine base” to “crack.” Some have held that any form of “cocaine base” qualifies for the mandatory minimum sentence. Others have adopted a hybrid approach that includes any smokable form of cocaine base within the statutory term—including, but apparently not limited to, crack. See Part II, infra. * * *

A lingering and stratified circuit split on a matter of such importance to the administration of criminal justice surely warrants the attention of Congress or resolution by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, however, we reaffirm our circuit’s holding in Booker that for purposes of the mandatory minimum sentence in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), the phrase “cocaine base” refers to cocaine base that constitutes crack. Edwards’ two ten-year sentences were premised on the district court’s factual finding that Edwards possessed noncrack forms of cocaine base and its legal conclusion that any form of cocaine base qualified for the mandatory minimum. The district court’s legal conclusion was in error; we therefore reverse and remand for resentencing in accordance with this opinion. Reversed.

* Not to be confused with a more recent case from this circuit by the same name, United States v. Booker, 375 F.3d 508 (7th Cir. 2004), just affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. ___, 2005 WL 50108 (January 12, 2005), which applied the rule of Blakely v. Washington, 124 S.Ct. 2531 (2004), and Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), to the federal Sentencing Guidelines and found a Sixth Amendment violation. As a remedy, the Court severed and excised from the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 the provision making the Guidelines mandatory, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b)(1), effectively rendering the Guidelines advisory. Booker, 2005 WL 50108, at *16.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 11, 2005 12:37 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions