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Washburn Law Journal Online

Range v. Att’y Gen.: When Overbreadth Becomes Dangerous

Joshua N. Becker | February 2, 2024 | Read this comment

Summary: Statutes that prohibit felons from possessing firearms have existed for quite a while in the United States. But now, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, is casting doubt on the validity of those statutes. To make it worse, they casted doubt on the statutes when they did not have to. The court took a case of a very low-level criminal and stretched Second Amendment principles beyond their logical limit to reach a conclusion that may have invalidated felon-in-possession law entirely.

They should not have reached so broad a conclusion. There were opportunities for a narrow decision that does justice to Range but protects necessary safeguards that protect us all from dangerous people having guns. Their alternatives were: (1) invalidate the federal “felony-equivalent” standard because that standard violates due process; (2) applying their Circuit’s test correctly to find valid regulations that have “historical analogues” to historical gun regulations; or (3) applying a “dangerousness” test to prohibit only dangerous felons from possessing firearms on a case-by-case basis.

Preferred Citation: Joshua N. Becker, Range v. Att’y Gen.: When Overbreadth Becomes Dangerous, 63 Washburn L.J. Online  35 (2024),

Paving a Path to Justice: Examining the Implications of the Ruan v. United States Decision on the Opioid Crisis [Ruan v. United States, 142 S. Ct. 2370 (2022)]

Yvonne Theresa SparrowSmith | December 15, 2023 | Read this comment

Summary: The Controlled Substances Act places stringent restrictions on prescribing controlled substances, such as opiates, and subjects doctors to criminal prosecution for violating those restrictions.  In Ruan v. United States, however, the Court held that a doctor does not violate the Controlled Substances Act unless the government can prove he knew his conduct fell outside an exception for prescriptions authorized under related regulations.  These exceptions allow doctors to prescribe controlled substances following their professional discretion.

In short, this decision is vital for both healthcare providers and patients who rely on prescriptions for controlled substances to relieve pain.  For healthcare providers, the holding provides much-needed clarity about when they may prescribe controlled substances without fear of criminal prosecution.  This clarity will help them continue providing needed care to patients without unnecessarily burdening themselves with worry about the threat of criminal prosecution.  For patients, the decision means they can continue relying on their doctor’s prescription for a controlled substance to relieve pain without fear their doctor may be criminally prosecuted.

Preferred Citation: Yvonne Theresa SparrowSmith, Paving a Path to Justice: Examining the Implications of the Ruan v. United States Decision on the Opioid Crisis, 63 Washburn L.J. Online  21(2023),

Cargill v. Garland: How Ambiguous Is It?

Nathan T. Seltzer | December 15, 2023 | Read this comment

Summary: In 2017, the horrific mass-shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, raised the profile of a previously obscure weapon modification known as a “bump stock.”  Following a presidential directive, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reinterpreted the definition of “machinegun” under the Firearms Control Act to include semi-automatic guns modified with bump stocks, reversing a position it had held since at least 2008.  This made possession of bump stocks illegal, and the ATF confiscated two such devices from Michael Cargill, who sued.

The government won in district court under Chevron deference, and the judgment was upheld by a Fifth Circuit panel.  However, in the case at bar, a 13-3 decision of an en banc Court reversed the panel and created a circuit split by holding the statute was unambiguously contrary to the ATF position; but, even if it was ambiguous, the rule of lenity foreclosed the ATF position.

Chevron does not apply to criminal statutes; the rule of lenity resolves ambiguity against criminality.

Preferred Citation: Nathan T. Seltzer, FCargill v. Garland: How Ambiguous Is It?, 63 Washburn L.J. Online  11 (2023),

Failing to Develop Justice: How SCOTUS Holds Habeas Petitioners Responsible for Ineffective Counsel’s Failure to Develop the Record [Shinn v. Ramirez, 142 S. Ct. 1718 (2022)]

Lindsay N. Kornegay | December 15, 2023 | Read this comment

Summary: When a criminal defendant receives ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, the defendant may attack the legality of their confinement through postconviction proceedings.  But what happens when postconviction counsel is also ineffective and fails to properly raise the issue of ineffective assistance of trial counsel?  Prior to Shinn v. Ramirez, federal courts provided a slim opportunity for relief when a defendant received ineffective assistance during both trial and postconviction proceedings for state-level charges.  Ramirez constructively closed this narrow avenue for federal relief, however.  Ramirez holds that when a state record is underdeveloped, federal courts may not allow further development of the record, even when ineffective counsel caused the underdevelopment of the record.  Ramirez therefore weakens the ability to meaningfully redress the issue of ineffective trial counsel because an underdeveloped record often results in insufficient evidence to support a claim.  Effectively foreclosing federal habeas relief for state-level charges bodes particularly ominous considering the underfunding of public defense systems.  State and federal legislative bodies must act to mitigate the harmful effects of Ramirez.

Preferred Citation: Lindsay N. Kornegay, Failing to Develop Justice: How SCOTUS Holds Habeas Petitioners Responsible for Ineffective Counsel’s Failure to Develop the Record, 63 Washburn L.J. Online  1 (2023),

Volume 63 Cases Reviewed