Law School Case Brief
Gundy v. United States - 139 S. Ct. 2116 (2019)
Only twice in this country’s history has the Court found a delegation excessive, in each case because “Congress had failed to articulate any policy or standard” to confine discretion.
Congress sought to combat sex crimes and crimes against children through sex-offender registration schemes. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) makes more “uniform and effective” the prior “patchwork” of registration systems, requiring a sex offender to register “before completing a sentence of imprisonment with respect to the offense giving rise to the registration requirement.” Under that delegated authority, the Attorney General issued a rule specifying that SORNA’s registration requirements apply in full to pre-Act offenders. Petitioner Herman Gundy, a pre-Act offender, was convicted of failing to register. Both the federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Gundy's claim that Congress unconstitutionally delegated legislative power when it authorized the Attorney General to “specify the applicability” of SORNA’s registration requirements to pre-Act offenders.
Did Congress unconstitutionally delegate legislative power when it authorized the Attorney General to “specify the applicability” of SORNA’s registration requirements to pre-Act offenders?
The United States Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the lower courts. It held that the delegation fell well within constitutional bounds. The court reiterated that a delegation is constitutional so long as Congress sets out an intelligible principle to guide the delegee’s exercise of authority. It was also within the intention of Congress to include pre-offenders to fall under the SORNA, finding that the Act’s legislative history showed that the need to register pre-Act offenders was front and center in Congress’s thinking.
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