Mathis v. United States - Oral Argument - April 26, 2016

Mathis v. United States

Media for Mathis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 23, 2016 in Mathis v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 2016 in Mathis v. United States

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Case 15-6092, Mathis v. United States. Mr. Fleming.

Mark C. Fleming:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: The Iowa statute under which Mr. Mathis was convicted defines one crime, and Iowa does not need to prove generic burglary to convict under it.

The Eighth Circuit below and the government here, nonetheless, want to use the modified categorical approach.

Not for its usual purpose, which is to identify the kind of conviction, we know what that is, but rather to identify the means of commission.

That is contrary to ACCA's categorical approach, and it's irreconcilable with both the result and the reasoning of this Court's decision in Descamps. One of --

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Why is that so? I mean, here we have the crime, burglary, and there are two ways of committing it.

One involves a structure; one involves a vehicle.

And those can be easily divided. We look at the charge.

The charge is for a structure, not for a vehicle.

Why -- why is it not divisible?

Mark C. Fleming:

For the exact same reason, Justice Ginsburg, that the California statute at issue in Descamps was not divisible.

In that case as well, the indictment charged that Mr. Descamps had unlawfully and feloniously entered the grocery store.

The prosecutor stated as much, that Mr. Descamps had broken and entered into a grocery store, and Mr. Descamps did not object to that. Nonetheless, this Court, quite properly, held that it was not divisible because California was not required to prove unlawful entry in order to get a conviction. The same is true of Mr. Mathis.

Iowa did not have to prove the type of occupied structure that he supposedly burglarized.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But he did one or the other.

In Descamps, there was an element that didn't have to be proved under the State statute.

You didn't have to prove unlawful.

Mark C. Fleming:

The -- the -- California would have had to prove entry, just as Iowa would have to prove an occupied structure.

But California did not have to prove whether the entry was unlawful as would have been required to make the offense a generic burglary offense. Similarly here, Iowa did not need to prove burglary of a building as opposed to burglary of a land, air, or water vehicle or similar place.

Those are issues that there's no dispute a jury could have divided on or Mr. Mathis would not have had to admit specifically in order to permit a conviction under the Iowa statute.

Stephen G. Breyer:

But they have to prove one -- they define, somewhere, structure, right, in the statute?

Mark C. Fleming:

They do, Justice Breyer.

Stephen G. Breyer:

And don't you have to prove that that definition applies? I mean, you know, suppose it was a structure for -- for an animal at a zoo or something.

I mean, that wouldn't count, would it?

Mark C. Fleming:

It might not.

But --

Stephen G. Breyer:


Well, if it does not, don't you have to at least prove that it falls within the definition?

Mark C. Fleming:

The definition of occupied structure.

Stephen G. Breyer: