United States v. Hayes - Oral Argument - November 10, 2008

United States v. Hayes

Media for United States v. Hayes

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 24, 2009 in United States v. Hayes

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 10, 2008 in United States v. Hayes

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument next in Case 07-608, United States v. Hayes.

Ms. Saharsky.

Nicole A. Saharsky:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Respondent's conviction for battering his wife is a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence primarily for two reasons: First, the statutory text is most naturally read that way.

Second, a contrary reading would defeat Congress's purposes.

Nine courts of appeals have determined that the text does not require a domestic relationship to be an element to the predicate offense.

That's because the statute's text uses only one element, using the singular word "element", which relates to mode of aggression.

It then introduces a new concept related to domestic relationship, using a comma and the word "committed".

The word "committed" naturally modifies the word "offense".

In common usage, a person commits an offense; he doesn't commit a use or attempted use of physical force.

Under Respondent's reading of the statute, when it was enacted it would have become immediately a dead letter in two-thirds of the States, and it wouldn't have any application to the Federal Government.


Antonin Scalia:

Well, Respondent says that may be because a lot of people in Congress wanted it to be a dead letter.

They would have wanted the whole thing to be a dead letter.

There are a lot of people who didn't like this statute because it was a gun control statute.

Nicole A. Saharsky:

--But Congress did act this statute, and this Court presumes two things: First--

Antonin Scalia:

Well, if it's a compromise with the people who wanted no statute at all and you come out with a statute that covers one-third of the States anyway, I mean that's, you know -- that's the deal.

Nicole A. Saharsky:

--There was a compromise made, but it wasn't with respect to whether there needed to be a domestic relationship element.

It was with respect to how violent the offense had to be.

Antonin Scalia:

How do we know -- how do we know that?

Nicole A. Saharsky:

Well, if you look at the statute's drafting history, there were two versions considered.

One used the term "crime of violence" to discuss how violent the statute had to be, and then the second substituted in the new language:

"has as an element the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon. "

Antonin Scalia:

But it also substituted this structure that we are -- that we are discussing today.

Didn't that come in at the same time?

Nicole A. Saharsky:


Antonin Scalia:

So, why -- why say it's only the former provision that was the compromise and not the addition of this later language?

Nicole A. Saharsky:

--Both the original structure and the statute as enacted had the same structure in that they had a "committed by" clause that modified the word "offense".

Now, it's true that the use -- (i) and the Romanette (ii), but that all came in because there was a discussion about how violent the offense had to be, both -- in the original statute that was considered, you have an offense committed by a certain person, an offense of a certain type committed by a certain person, and in the statute that was enacted you have an offense of a certain type committed by a certain person.

Now, Congress put more detail in, in terms of what that certain type of offense is.

This has as an "element" language, but it just didn't go to domestic relationship.