Johnson v. United States: A Breach in the Social Contract?

43 S.U. L. Rev. 2 (2016)

27 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2016 Last revised: 10 Jun 2016

See all articles by Crystal Etue

Crystal Etue

Southern University Law Center, Students

Date Written: March 12, 2016


John Adams once said, “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.” It is highly doubtful however, that Mr. Adams had a defendant like Samuel Johnson in mind when he spoke of the less important task of punishing the guilty. Last term, the Supreme Court reversed decades of its own holdings when it declared the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) void for vagueness in Johnson v. United States. In one fell swoop, the Supreme Court’s bold move in conjunction with Congress’s failure to amend the statute placed American society unnecessarily exposed and at risk. This article examines the four previous cases brought before the Supreme Court along with the analysis and subsequent determinations of constitutionality. Additionally, this author turned to Congress’s intent and research behind the creation of the ACCA and the problems it was designed to address. The author in this case note addresses the Court’s responsibility to enforce democratically enacted legislation when at all possible, despite any extra effort it may require.

Keywords: violent felony, residual clause, vagueness, sentencing, ACCA, Armed Career Criminal Act

Suggested Citation

Etue, Crystal, Johnson v. United States: A Breach in the Social Contract? (March 12, 2016). 43 S.U. L. Rev. 2 (2016) , Available at SSRN:

Crystal Etue (Contact Author)

Southern University Law Center, Students ( email )

Baton Rouge, LA
United States

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