De'Angelo Cross v. United States, No. 17-2282 (7th Cir. 2018)

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Justia Opinion Summary

When the district court sentenced Cross (2000) and Davis (1992), the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines prescribed an elevated sentence for career offenders. A defendant qualified as a career offender upon his third felony conviction for either a crime of violence or a drug offense. The guidelines defined “crime of violence” in three ways: an elements approach, an enumerated offense approach, and the residual clause, which covered any offense that “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Both Cross and Davis were sentenced under the residual clause. Neither objected at trial. The Supreme Court jettisoned the mandatory nature of the guidelines in 2005 (Booker). In its 2015 “Johnson” holding, the Supreme Court found identical residual language in the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e), unconstitutionally vague; in 2017 the Court held (Beckles) that Johnson does not extend to the advisory guidelines, including the career-offender guideline. The Seventh Circuit granted Cross and Davis relief from their sentences under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Beckles applies only to advisory guidelines, not to mandatory sentencing rules. Under Johnson, the guidelines residual clause is unconstitutionally vague insofar as it determined mandatory sentencing ranges for pre-Booker defendants. Cross and Davis are entitled to be resentenced.

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In the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit ____________________ Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 DE’ANGELO A. CROSS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent-Appellee, and CARL LEO DAVIS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent-Appellee. ____________________ Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 15-C-1338 — J. P. Stadtmueller, Judge, and No. 16-C-747 — William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge. ____________________ ARGUED JANUARY 10, 2018 — DECIDED JUNE 7, 2018 ____________________ 2 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 Before WOOD, Chief Judge, HAMILTON, Circuit Judge, and BUCKLO, District Judge. * WOOD, Chief Judge. When compliance with the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was still understood to be mandatory, district courts were required to impose an extended term of incarceration on so-called career criminals. This class of repeat felons was limited to those previously convicted twice for drug crimes or crimes of violence. The latter o enses included any felony “involv[ing] conduct that present[ed] a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) (1992); U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) (2000). We will call that de nition of a crime of violence the “residual clause” in this opinion. The Supreme Court jettisoned the mandatory nature of the guidelines in 2005, in its decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220. The Booker decision did not, however, immediately a ect sentences imposed on defendants previously. Thus, De’Angelo Cross and Carl Davis continued to serve obligatory sentences as career o enders as required by the mandatory guidelines. Both Cross and Davis quali ed for that designation because of the residual clause. Their present appeal challenged the constitutionality of that clause. Two recent developments form the backdrop for our decision: rst, the Supreme Court’s holding in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), that the identical language in the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (2012), is unconstitutionally vague; and second, the Court’s ruling in Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886 (2017), that Johnson does not extend to the post-Booker advisory guidelines, including the * Of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation. Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 3 career-o ender guideline. We conclude that Beckles applies only to advisory guidelines, not to mandatory sentencing rules. Under Johnson, the guidelines residual clause is unconstitutionally vague insofar as it determined mandatory sentencing ranges for pre-Booker defendants. Cross and Davis are both entitled to be resentenced. I Cross and Davis brought their cases to the district court through motions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for relief from their sentences. Each was unsuccessful before the district court and appealed to this court. In light of the substantial overlap in the issues presented, we consolidated their cases. When the district court sentenced Cross (2000) and Davis (1992), the then-mandatory sentencing guidelines prescribed an elevated sentence for those denominated career o enders. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. A defendant quali ed as a career o ender upon his third felony conviction for either a crime of violence or a drug o ense. Id. The guidelines de ned the term “crime of violence” in three ways: an elements approach, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1); an enumerated o ense approach, id. § 4B1.2(a)(2), rst part; and the residual clause, id. § 4B1.2(a)(2), nal clause. As we noted, the residual clause covered any o ense that “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” Id. Both Cross and Davis were sentenced as career o enders on the basis of the residual clause, and neither objected at trial. Davis did not le a direct appeal. Although Cross led a notice of appeal (despite generally waiving his right to appeal or to le for collateral relief in his plea agreement), this court dismissed his case as frivolous after his attorney led a no-merit brief to which Cross did not respond. United States v. Cross, 4 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 24 F. App’x 576, 577 (7th Cir. 2001); see Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744–45 (1967). Since Davis’s and Cross’s convictions, the Supreme Court has dramatically altered the federal sentencing landscape. First, Booker demoted the federal sentencing guidelines from mandatory to advisory. 543 U.S. 220. Then Johnson struck down the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) as unconstitutionally vague, overruling contrary decisions in James v. United States, 550 U.S. 192 (2007), and Sykes v. United States, 564 U.S. 1 (2011), and upsetting a host of decisions from every court of appeals in the country. The residual clause of the ACCA, which imposed increased minimum and maximum sentences, used identical language to that employed in the guidelines. Compare 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B) (2012) with U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) (1992 and 2000). The Court subsequently declared Johnson retroactive. Welch v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1257 (2016). Meanwhile, the Court applied the ex post facto clause to bar a retrospective increase in an advisory guidelines range. Peugh v. United States, 569 U.S. 530 (2013). Yet contrary to this circuit’s expectations, see United States v. Hurlburt, 835 F.3d 715 (7th Cir. 2016) (en banc) (declaring the residual clause in the advisory guidelines void for vagueness under Johnson), the Court held in Beckles that the void-for-vagueness doctrine has no role to play in the advisory guidelines and upheld the use of the residual clause in that context, 137 S. Ct. 886. In light of these developments and within one year of Johnson, Cross and Davis each sought resentencing under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In Cross’s case, even though the judge expressed considerable sympathy for Cross’s vagueness argu- Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 5 ment, he thought himself bound by this court’s refusal to entertain vagueness challenges to the mandatory guidelines in United States v. Brierton, 165 F.3d 1133, 1139 (7th Cir. 1999), and advisory guidelines in United States v. Tichenor, 683 F.3d 358, 364–65 (7th Cir. 2012). Notwithstanding the fact that we had reversed course in Hurlburt, the judge “c[ould] not conclude with certainty that Hurlburt’s abrogation of Tichenor [and Brierton] remain[ed e ective] notwithstanding Beckles,” in which the Supreme Court abrogated the speci c holding of Hurlburt. In the alternative, he held that the broad waiver of appellate rights in Cross’s plea agreement could not be overcome, even though the appeal waiver permitted motions “based on … the sentencing court’s reliance on any constitutionally impermissible factor.” A di erent district judge handled Davis’s motion, but he too concluded that relief was not in order. He found that Davis’s motion was barred by the one-year limitations period in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). He acknowledged that section 2255(f)(3) reopens the limitations period for an additional year from “the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” Id. § 2255(f)(3). He also recognized that Davis led his petition within a year of Johnson’s issuance. Nonetheless, the judge believed that the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the residual clause in the ACCA did not carry over to the residual clause in the pre-Booker, mandatory version of the career-criminal sentencing guideline. In the alternative, he held that Davis quali ed as a career offender under the elements clause of the guidelines. See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1) (“crime of violence” also includes any felony that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or 6 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 threatened use of physical force”). On that basis, he concluded that Davis was still a career o ender notwithstanding Johnson. II Because Cross’s and Davis’s appeals present legal, rather than factual disputes, we consider the district courts’ conclusions de novo. Delatorre v. United States, 847 F.3d 837, 843 (7th Cir. 2017). We begin by explaining why we reject the various procedural hurdles that the government has raised as a bar to our reaching the merits of both these appeals. A Cross and Davis each led his section 2255 motion within one year of the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson. The government nonetheless argues that their motions were untimely. Federal prisoners “claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States” may ask the sentencing court to “vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). They must, however, le their motion within a speci ed time. Id. § 2255(f). The only limitation period potentially applicable to Cross’s and Davis’s cases runs for one year from “the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” Id. § 2255(f)(3). Dodd v. United States clari es that this limitation period begins when the Supreme Court declares a new right, not when courts rst acknowledge that right to be retroactive. 545 U.S. 353, 356–60 (2005). Thus, the timeliness of Cross’s and Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 7 Davis’s motions hinges on whether the right they “assert[] was initially recognized by” Johnson. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3). The government argues that Johnson recognized the invalidity of the residual clause only vis-à-vis the ACCA. Cross and Davis, unlike Johnson, were sentenced under the residual clause of the guidelines. The government concludes, therefore, that section 2255(f)(3) cannot help them, unless and until the Supreme Court explicitly extends the logic of Johnson to the pre-Booker mandatory guidelines. The Fourth and Sixth Circuits have both accepted this view. Raybon v. United States, 867 F.3d 625, 629–31 (6th Cir. 2017); United States v. Brown, 868 F.3d 297, 301–04 (4th Cir. 2017). The First Circuit has rejected it. Moore v. United States, 871 F.3d 72, 80–84 (1st Cir. 2017). The government’s approach su ers from a fundamental aw. It improperly reads a merits analysis into the limitations period. Section 2255(f)(3) runs from “the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3) (emphasis added). It does not say that the movant must ultimately prove that the right applies to his situation; he need only claim the bene t of a right that the Supreme Court has recently recognized. An alternative reading would require that we take the disfavored step of reading “asserted” out of the statute. See Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 174 (2001) (“It is our duty ‘to give e ect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute.” (quoting United States v. Menasche, 348 U.S. 528, 538–39 (1955)). Here, Cross and Davis claim the right to be resentenced on the ground that the vague (yet mandatory) residual clause unconstitutionally xed their terms of imprisonment. The right not to be sentenced under a rule of law using this vague language was recognized in Johnson. 135 S. Ct. at 2556–57 (“The 8 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 prohibition of vagueness in criminal statutes … appl[ies] not only to statutes de ning elements of crimes, but also to statutes xing sentences … . [T]he indeterminacy of the … residual clause … denies due process of law.”); see also Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 892 (“In Johnson, we applied the vagueness rule to a statute xing permissible sentences. The ACCA’s residual clause … xed—in an impermissibly vague way—a higher range of sentences for certain defendants.”). We are satis ed that the requirements of section 2255(f)(3) are met. Under Johnson, a person has a right not to have his sentence dictated by the unconstitutionally vague language of the mandatory residual clause. Davis and Cross assert precisely that right. They complied with the limitations period of section 2255(f)(3) by ling their motions within one year of Johnson. See also Vitrano v. United States, 721 F.3d 802, 807–08 (7th Cir. 2013) (holding that the Supreme Court recognized the general right not to be subject to an enhanced sentence based on an understanding of the term “violent felony” that con icted with Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137, 148 (2008), and thus holding motion under section 2255 untimely when it was led more than a year after Begay was decided). B The government next raised the ubiquitous specter of procedural default. Because neither Cross nor Davis challenged the constitutionality of the residual clause at trial or on direct appeal, the government argues they are barred from doing so now. As an initial matter, forfeiture and waiver can stymie an appellee as well as an appellant. In Cross’s case, the government waived its procedural default argument vis-à-vis Cross Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 9 by failing to assert it adequately in the district court. Attempting to make the best of a bad showing, the government admits that it raised procedural default only “succinctly” in a footnote. This is not enough, as we have held repeatedly. United States v. White, 879 F.2d 1509, 1513 (7th Cir. 1989); see also Harmon v. Gordon, 712 F.3d 1044, 1053 (7th Cir. 2013). In general, habeas corpus petitioners may not raise any issue that they might have presented on direct appeal. McCoy v. United States, 815 F.3d 292, 295 (7th Cir. 2016). A petitioner may, however, overcome procedural default by showing cause for the default and actual prejudice, Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622 (1998), or that “failure to consider the defaulted claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice,” Johnson v. Loftus, 518 F.3d 453, 455–56 (7th Cir. 2008). Cross and Davis have established their right to raise this claim by way of the “cause and prejudice” avenue. We thus have no need to discuss the question whether the “fundamental miscarriage of justice” approach might also support their motions. We have no doubt that an extended prison term—which was imposed on both men as a result of their designation as career o enders—constitutes prejudice. See Glover v. United States, 531 U.S. 198, 203 (2001). That narrows our inquiry to whether they have shown cause for not objecting at trial. A change in the law may constitute cause for a procedural default if it creates “a claim that ‘is so novel that its legal basis is not reasonably available to counsel.’” Bousley, 523 U.S. at 622 (quoting Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 16 (1984)). In Reed, the Court identi ed three nonexclusive situations in which an attorney may lack a “reasonable basis” to raise a novel claim: 10 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 First, a decision of this Court may explicitly overrule one of our precedents. Second, a decision may “overtur[n] a longstanding and widespread practice to which this Court has not spoken, but which a nearunanimous body of lower court authority has expressly approved.” And, nally, a decision may “disapprov[e] a practice this Court arguably has sanctioned in prior cases.” Reed, 468 U.S. at 17 (quoting United States v. Johnson, 457 U.S. 537, 551 (1982)). The government, relying on a footnote in Richardson v. Lemke, 745 F.3d 258, 274 n.7 (7th Cir. 2014), suggests that Reed is no longer good law. In Richardson, we assumed the validity of Reed, even as we noted that in Prihoda v. McCaughtry, 910 F.2d 1379, 1386 (7th Cir. 1990), we had questioned Reed’s continuing force after Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989). Later cases, however, put our concerns to rest. The Supreme Court has since relied on Reed, see Bousley, 523 U.S. at 622, as have we, e.g., McCoy v. United States, 815 F.3d at 295– 96 (7th Cir. 2016); McKinley v. Butler, 809 F.3d 908, 912 (7th Cir. 2016). Moreover, Prihoda did not hold that legal change as understood by Reed could never constitute cause; rather, it said that legal change had to qualify as retroactive under Teague for the petitioner to prevail. Prihoda, 910 F.2d at 1385–86. In other words, we thought that legal change under Teague was concentrically nested within legal change under Reed, rendering the latter superfluous once a claim qualified under Teague. Id. Cross and Davis could not reasonably have challenged the guidelines residual clause when the district court sentenced them in 1992 and 2000 respectively. On this point, we agree Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 11 with our sister circuits that “no one—the government, the judge, or the [defendant]—could reasonably have anticipated Johnson.” United States v. Snyder, 871 F.3d 1122, 1127 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting United States v. Redrick, 841 F.3d 478, 480 (D.C. Cir. 2016)). In fact, the Johnson Court expressly overruled its own precedent, 135 S. Ct. 2563 (“Our contrary holdings in James[, 550 U.S. 192,] and Sykes[, 131 S. Ct. 2267,] are overruled.”), and so satis ed the rst criterion of Reed. Although Johnson involved the ACCA rather than the career-offender guidelines, the language it evaluated was nearly identical to that in the career-o ender guidelines. We acknowledge that the cases overruled by Johnson were not decided until 2007 and 2011—after the petitioners’ sentencing— and thus could not themselves have in uenced petitioners’ failure to object at trial. Nonetheless, when the Supreme Court reverses course, the change generally indicates an abrupt shift in law. The alternative would be a case of wa ing, where the overruled cases themselves rejected prior precedent and the later case merely restored a status quo ante. That is not our situation. Johnson represented the type of abrupt shift with which Reed was concerned. Until Johnson, the Supreme Court had been engaged in a painful e ort to make sense of the residual clause. In James, it took the position that the validity of the residual clause was so clear that it could summarily reject Justice Scalia’s contrary view in a footnote. That footnote provided no argument, noted that the constitutional issue was not even “pressed by James or his amici,” and took comfort from the broad use of “[s]imilar formulations” throughout the statute books. James, 550 U.S. at 210 n.6. Eight years later, the Court made a U-turn and tossed out the ACCA residual clause as unconstitutionally vague. We join the Tenth Circuit 12 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 in excusing, under Reed’s rst category, the petitioners’ failure to challenge the residual clause prior to Johnson. Snyder, 871 F.3d at 1125, 1127. The second and third scenarios identi ed by Reed present even more compelling grounds to excuse Cross’s and Davis’s procedural defaults. Johnson abrogated a substantial body of circuit court precedent upholding the residual clause against vagueness challenges. E.g., Brierton, 165 F.3d at 1138–39; United States v. Presley, 52 F.3d 64, 68 (4th Cir. 1995); United States v. Argo, 925 F.2d 1133, 1134–35 (9th Cir. 1991). Although most of these decisions postdate Davis’s sentencing (though not Cross’s), no court ever came close to striking down the residual clause before 1992 or even suggested that it would entertain such a challenge. Finally, the Supreme Court had implicitly “sanctioned” the residual clause by interpreting it as if it were determinate. Stinson v. United States, 508 U.S. 36 (1993); Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990). Thus, the parties’ inability to anticipate Johnson excuses their procedural default. III A The government has also raised particular objections in each case. We begin with Davis’s appeal. The government suggests that Davis’s predicate conviction for robbery, to which the residual clause applied, also fell afoul of the elements clause of the guidelines. Thus, it says, regardless of the validity of the residual clause, the district court properly classi ed and sentenced him as a career o ender. That argument may work in some cases, but it does not su ce here. Although Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 13 both parties acknowledge that Davis’s robbery conviction satis ed the elements clause as understood at the time of his sentencing, Curtis Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133 (2010), has since held that an o ense must entail a greater degree of force to trigger that clause. (For the sake of clarity, we adopt the parties’ practice of referring to Curtis Darnell Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, as Curtis Johnson; we will continue to refer to United States v. Samuel James Johnson, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), as Johnson.). Davis’s conviction cannot satisfy the heightened requirement of Curtis Johnson. Davis’s earlier conviction was for simple robbery. The guidelines designate a felony as a crime of violence if it “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(1)(i). Interpreting the identical clause of the ACCA, Curtis Johnson held that “the phrase ‘physical force’ means violent force—that is, force capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.” 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010). It further determined that Florida’s crime of simple battery did not meet this threshold. Id. at 145. A Florida statute de ned simple battery to include “[a]ctually and intentionally touch[ing] or strik[ing] another person against the will of the other.” Id. at 136 (quoting FLA. STAT. § 784.03(1)(a)(1)). In determining whether a violation of the act triggered the elements clause, the Court was “bound by the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation” that “the element of ‘actually and intentionally touching’ … [was] satis ed by any intentional physical contact, ‘no matter how slight,’” id. at 138 (quoting State v. Hearns, 961 So. 2d 211, 218 (Fla. 2007)), including “[t]he most ‘nominal contact,’ such as a ‘ta[p] … on the shoulder without consent,’” id. (quoting Hearns, 961 So. 2d at 219). Florida’s simple battery 14 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 law thus criminalized a greater variety of conduct than the force clause punished. The same is true of Davis’s conviction for simple robbery in Wisconsin. The relevant Wisconsin statute provides that robbery can be committed in two ways: (a) By using force against the person of the owner with intent thereby to overcome his or her physical resistance or physical power of resistance to the taking or carrying away of the property; or (b) By threatening the imminent use of force against the person of the owner or of another who is present with intent thereby to compel the owner to acquiesce in the taking or carrying away of the property. WIS. STAT. § 943.32(1). The Wisconsin Supreme Court has expressly stated that the requisite force is “not to be confounded with violence” and the “degree of force used by the defendant is immaterial.” Walton v. State, 218 N.W.2d 309, 312 (Wis. 1974); see also Whitaker v. State, 265 N.W.2d 575, 579 (Wis. 1978). Walton and Whitaker thus parallel the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Hearns by de ning force to include nonviolent physical contact. Given this authoritative interpretation of Wisconsin law, section 943.32(1) does not trigger the elements clause under Curtis Johnson. Curtis Johnson, of course, said nothing about the residual clause. It spoke only to the elements clause. Curtis Johnson thus provided Davis with no basis to move for resentencing under section 2255. Contrary to the government’s assertion, nothing had happened that would have initiated the relevant limitation period under section 2255(f)(3). That provision has Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 15 meaning only if read in conjunction with the right it limits— a right that section 2255(a) creates. Section 2255(a) permits a motion to set aside a sentence by a prisoner “claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Prior to Johnson, Davis had no basis to assert that his sentence was illegal and thus he could not claim a right to be released. Curtis Johnson did not change that fact: all it did was to eliminate the elements clause as a basis for Davis’s status, which became entirely dependent on the residual clause. There matters stayed until Johnson. Only then could Davis le a nonfrivolous motion for relief. Section 2255(f)(3) applies a limitation period of one year from “the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3). It was not until Johnson that the Supreme Court recognized Davis’s asserted right “to be released” on account of an illegal or unconstitutional sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) (emphasis added). Only by divorcing section 2255(f)(3) from section 2255(a) could one say that Davis’s right to petition for his release ended before it began. In support of its proposed rule, the government o ers only an excerpt from a single case, Stanley v. United States, which held that Curtis Johnson rather than Johnson triggered the limitation period under section 2255(f)(3). 827 F.3d 562, 565 (7th Cir. 2016). But a closer look at Stanley demonstrates that it does not help the government. In Stanley, Johnson did not reopen the limitations period because, regardless of the constitutionality of the residual clause, only the elements clause had ever justi ed Stanley’s sentence. Stanley, 827 F.3d at 565. The residual clause, and hence Johnson, was irrelevant. Id. 16 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 Moreover, we were careful to note that the prisoner might have relied on Johnson to trigger section 2255(f)(3) had he “decided not to press an argument about the elements clause at [his original] sentencing, or on appeal,” because “the only consequence would have been to move a conviction from the elements clause to the residual clause.” Id. That is precisely the situation presented here. B Turning to Cross’s case, the government argues that a waiver clause in his plea agreement bars him from bringing his motion under section 2255. Plea agreements are contracts through which defendants bargain away fundamental rights. E.g., United States v. Ingram, 979 F.2d 1179, 1184 (7th Cir. 1992). We therefore construe plea agreements according to the ordinary principles of contract law, but with a heightened obligation both to secure for defendants the bene ts of their negotiation and to restrict only those rights they properly relinquished. E.g., id. (“Plea agreements, however, are ‘unique contracts’ and the ordinary contract principles are supplemented with a concern that the bargaining process not violate the defendant’s right to fundamental fairness under the Due Process Clause.”); United States v. Quintero, 618 F.3d 746, 751 (2010) (“‘[W]e interpret the terms of the agreement according to the parties’ reasonable expectations’ and construe any ambiguities in the light most favorable to” the defendant), quoting United States v. Woods, 581 F.3d 531, 534 (7th Cir. 2009)); see also, e.g., United States v. Alcala, 678 F.3d 574, 577 (7th Cir. 2012). A valid appeal waiver must speak in “express and unambiguous” terms. Quintero, 618 F.3d at 751; United States v. Woolley, 123 F.3d 627, 632 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting United States v. Hendrickson, 22 F.3d 170, 174 (7th Cir. 1994). Contrary to the Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 17 government’s assertions, we determine de novo whether a plea agreement satis es this requirement. Alcala, 678 F.3d at 577; Ingram, 979 F.2d at 1184. Cross’s waiver of his right to bring a section 2255 motion was not unlimited. It did not include, for instance, a challenge to “the court’s reliance on any constitutionally impermissible factor.” Both the district court and government interpret that carve-out to encompass only a narrow set of factors read into all appeal waivers as a matter of constitutional law. Under this exception, even a blanket appeal waiver cannot foreclose a defendant’s right to challenge the sentencing court’s use of a constitutionally impermissible, identity-based factor such as race or gender. E.g., Jones v. United States, 167 F.3d 1142, 1144 (7th Cir. 1999). According to the government, the written carve-out in Cross’s agreement merely replicates this constitutional baseline and thus does not cover Cross’s motion. Cross reads the carve-out to include any unconstitutional input in sentencing. This is a reasonable interpretation. Even if we thought the government’s reading were also reasonable, we would be left with an ambiguous waiver that should not apply to Cross’s section 2255 motion. The language of the plea agreement does not limit the term “constitutionally impermissible factor” to the exceptions that we must read into all appeal waivers. A “factor,” in its relevant sense, is simply “[a]n element or constituent, esp[ecially] one which contributes to or in uences a process or result.” Factor, OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (3d ed. Sept. 2014), http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/67512?rskey=tf2pMV&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid. Courts routinely use the word factor to refer to mandatory-guidelines inputs. E.g., United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. at 241–42 (noting that the guidelines 18 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 set sentencing ranges “based on various factors related to the o ense and the o ender”); Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81, 92 (1996). The guidelines do the same, including with respect to the career-criminal enhancement. E.g., U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3. Cross’s designation as a career o ender on the basis of the residual clause was a crucial element of the sentencing court’s guidelines calculation. It contributed directly to his resulting sentence and was thus a factor in his sentence. We are satis ed that the exception in Cross’s waiver for any “constitutionally impermissible factor” in sentencing covers the alleged illicit use of the residual clause to calculate his guidelines range. Cross thus retained the right to le the present section 2255 motion. IV Having dispensed with these procedural hurdles, we are at last ready to resolve the central issue on appeal: whether, under Johnson, relief is available to Davis and Cross. Johnson establishes that the residual clause of the ACCA is unconstitutionally vague. 135 S. Ct. at 2557. Therefore, if a) the residual clause of the guidelines su ers from the same indeterminacy and b) the constitutional requirement of clarity applies to the mandatory guidelines, then we must declare that clause void as well. A Johnson homed in on a con uence of two factors that deprived the residual clause of the ACCA of su ciently de nite meaning. 135 S. Ct. at 2557–58; see also Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. 1204, 1213 (2018). First, the ACCA clause required judges to assess the risk of injury associated with a defendant’s prior convictions using a categorical approach. Johnson, Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 19 135 S. Ct. at 2557. In other words, “[i]t tie[d] the judicial assessment of risk to a judicially imagined ‘ordinary case’ of a crime, not to real-world facts or statutory elements.” Id. Second, it required judges to weigh the apparent danger posed by those idealized o enses against the nebulous metric of “serious potential risk.” Id. at 2557. The “combin[ed] indeterminacy” concerning how much risk the crimes of conviction posed and the degree of risk required of violent felonies produced unacceptable “unpredictability and arbitrariness.” Id. at 2558. These same two faults inhere in the residual clause of the guidelines. It hardly could be otherwise because the two clauses are materially identical. The mandatory minimum provisions of the ACCA apply to defendants who “ha[ve] three previous convictions … for a violent felony or a serious drug o ense.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The statute de nes “violent felony” as one that: (i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another; or (ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). Instead of referring to a “violent felony,” the guidelines speak of a defendant’s “ha[ving] at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance o ense.” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Its de nition of a “crime of violence,” however, is identical to that of “vio- 20 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 lent felony” in the ACCA. A “crime of violence” is “any offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year that— (i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another, or (ii) is burglary of a dwelling, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (1992) (emphasis added); see also U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (2000) (replacing roman with arabic numerals and adding a comma before “that” in the introductory clause). The only linguistic di erence between the two is italicized. In the enumerated crimes section, burglary under the guidelines is limited to burglary of a dwelling. Otherwise, the two de nitions are identical, as the Supreme Court has acknowledged. See Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 890 (describing the residual clauses as “identically worded”). (Nitpickers may also notice that ACCA and 1992 edition of the guidelines use roman numerals, while the 2000 edition adopted arabic numerals. We cannot fathom why that should matter.) Johnson con rmed that the categorical approach applies to the residual clause of the ACCA. 135 S. Ct. at 2561–62; see also id. at 2579–80 (Alito, J., dissenting). The majority gave three reasons for doing so. All three of those reasons apply with equal force to the guidelines. First, in the face of the Court’s consistent application of the categorical approach to the residual clause, the government did not, in Johnson, ask it to abandon that approach. Id. at 2562 (majority opinion). We too have Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 21 taken the position that the categorical approach applies to the guidelines without eliciting any objection from the government (either in this case or others). E.g., United States v. Woods, 576 F.3d 400, 403–04 (7th Cir. 2009). Second, the ACCA “refers to ‘a person who … has three previous convictions’ for—not a person who has committed—three previous violent felonies or drug o enses.” Johnson, 135 S. Ct. at 2562 (quoting in its entirety from Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 600 (1990)). Johnson held that “[t]his emphasis on convictions indicates that ‘Congress intended the sentencing court to look only to the fact that the defendant had been convicted of crimes falling within certain categories, and not to the facts underlying the prior convictions.’” Id. (quoting Taylor, 495 U.S. at 600 (1990)). Likewise, the guidelines refer to a defendant who “has at least two prior felony convictions of either a crime of violence or a controlled substance o ense,” rather than a person who has committed two prior felonies. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Third, the Court noted the “utter impracticability of requiring a sentencing court to reconstruct, long after the original conviction, the conduct underlying that conviction.” Johnson, 135 S. Ct. at 2551. That di culty is just as acute under the guidelines as under the ACCA. The additional words, “of a dwelling,” in the guidelines’ enumerated clause do not focus the meaning of the phrase “serious potential risk” in the residual clause that follows. It might once have been argued that narrowing the enumerated burglary o ense allows a more precise analogy to be drawn to the degree of harm with which the residual clause is concerned. But the Supreme Court closed the door on this noscitur a sociis style argument in Taylor. Taylor faced the converse problem of trying to determine the meaning of “burglary” in the enumerated clause of the ACCA, and in particular 22 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 whether to read in the common-law requirement that a burglar must target a dwelling. 495 U.S. at 593–96. Although Taylor entertained the converse notion that the requirement of a “serious potential risk” of injury in the residual clause might inform the meaning of the enumerated o enses, the Court refrained from taking that approach: It could be argued, of course, that common-law burglary, by and large, involves a greater “potential risk of physical injury to another.” § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). But, even assuming that Congress intended to restrict the predicate o ense to some especially dangerous subclass of burglaries, restricting it to common-law burglary would not be a rational way of doing so. The common-law de nition does not require that the offender be armed or that the dwelling be occupied at the time of the crime. An armed burglary of an occupied commercial building, in the daytime, would seem to pose a far greater risk of harm to persons than an unarmed nocturnal breaking and entering of an unoccupied house. It seems unlikely that Congress would have considered the latter, but not the former, to be a “violent felony” counting towards a sentence enhancement. Id. at 594. Thus, limiting the enumerated o ense to burglaries of dwellings sheds no light on the degree of risk required in the residual clause. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dimaya recon rms our view that the residual clause of the guidelines shares the weaknesses that Johnson identi ed in the ACCA. Dimaya concerned an analogous residual clause in 18 U.S.C. § 16, as incorporated into the Immigration and Nationality Act. Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 23 138 S. Ct. at 1210–11. The INA renders removable any “alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony at any time after admission,” 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), and precludes the cancellation of his removal and adjustment of his status by the Attorney General, id. § 1229b(a)(3), (b)(1)(C). The statute de nes aggravated felony to include a “crime of violence … for which the term of imprisonment [is] at least one year.” Id. § 1101(a)(43)(F). Section 16, in turn, contains the following de nition of “crime of violence”: (a) an o ense that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (b) any other o ense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the o ense. 18 U.S.C. § 16. The Court turned to Johnson for guidance in how to read section 16. It found no principled di erence between the two statutes: Johnson, it said, “is a straightforward decision, with equally straightforward application here.” Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. at 1213. Section 16’s residual clause su ered from indeterminacy in “just the same way” as the ACCA’s. Id. at 1213. Both required a categorical approach to the predicate o enses, and both vaguely called for a “not-well-speci ed-yet-su cientlylarge degree of risk.” Id. at 1216. In his concurrence, Justice Gorsuch highlighted the key parallels between the ACCA and statutory scheme at issue in Dimaya from which the Court’s conclusion owed: 24 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 Just like the statute in Johnson, the statute here instructs courts to impose special penalties on individuals previously “convicted of” a “crime of violence.” Just like the statute in Johnson, the statute here fails to specify which crimes qualify for that label. Instead, and again like the statute in Johnson, the statute here seems to require a judge to guess about the ordinary case of the crime and conviction and then guess whether a “substantial risk” of “physical force” attends its commission. Johnson held that a law that asks so much of courts while o ering them so little by way of guidance is unconstitutionally vague. And I do not see how we might reach a di erent judgment here. Id. at 1231 (Gorsuch, J., concurring). As we already have highlighted, each of those three hallmarks is shared by the guidelines. The guidelines speak of a defendant “convicted of” a crime of violence, do not specify the o enses belonging to the category, and leave judges to guess how much risk o enses must entail. Thus, to borrow Justice Gorsuch’s phrase, we “do not see how we might reach a di erent judgment here.” In fact, the textual di erences between the ACCA and guidelines pale in comparison to the di erences between the ACCA and section 16: section 16 lacks an enumerated clause; its residual clause requires “physical force” rather than “physical injury”; it requires a “substantial risk” rather than a “serious potential risk”; and it additionally requires that the o ense involve that risk “by its nature” and that the risk arise “in the course of committing the o ense.” Compare 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) with 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) and U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(i). In dissent, Chief Justice Roberts sought to distin- Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 25 guish Johnson on the basis of some of these di erences, see Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. at 1235–37 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting), but the majority of his colleagues were unpersuaded, see id. at 1218 (majority opinion). Interestingly, the Dimaya majority considered whether the complete absence of an enumerated-o ense clause in section 16 a ected the indeterminacy of its residual clause. Id. at 1221. Resolving that question in the negative, the Court observed that the enumerated crimes of the ACCA had failed to establish a baseline degree of risk because they “were themselves too varied to provide such assistance.” Id. (“Trying to reconcile them with each other, and then compare them to whatever unlisted crime was at issue, drove many a judge a little batty.”). The guidelines did not reduce that diversity by substituting burglary of a dwelling in a list that includes extortion and use of explosives. Although several justices in Dimaya did question the vitality of the categorical approach, their opinions do not undercut our interpretation of the guidelines for two reasons. First, only a minority of the justices cast aspersions on the categorical approach. Justice Thomas, joined in part by Justices Kennedy and Alito, did so in dissent. Id. at 1250–59 (Thomas, J., dissenting). Justice Gorsuch’s concurrence reserved judgment on the issue for the future. Id. at 1232–33 (Gorsuch, J., concurring). Until that time, Justice Gorsuch assumed that the categorical approach did apply because, in part, the Supreme Court’s “precedent seemingly requires this approach.” Id. at 1232. If that was enough to persuade the Justice, it is more than enough for us. As a lower court, we are required to follow the Court’s precedents until the Court itself tells us otherwise. Unless and until a majority of the Court overrules the 26 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 majority opinions in Johnson and Dimaya, they continue to bind us. 1 1 The Supreme Court recently vacated our judgments in United States v. Jenkins and United States v. Jackson, remanding those cases to us for reconsideration in light of Dimaya. United States v. Jenkins, No. 17-97, 2018 WL 2186183 (U.S. May 14, 2018); United States v. Jackson, No. 17-651, 2018 WL 2186185 (U.S. May 14, 2018). Those remands do not dictate our disposition of the present appeals. Our now-vacated opinions in Jenkins and Jackson had held that the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) was unconstitutionally vague, and in so doing had assumed that the clause required use of the categorical approach. United States v. Jackson, 865 F.3d 946, 952, 956 (7th Cir. 2017); see also United States v. Jenkins, 849 F.3d 390, 394 (7th Cir. 2017). The government had asked the Supreme Court to return those cases to us because Dimaya “suggest[ed] that a court could, consistent with the canon of constitutional avoidance, construe Section 924(c)(3)(B) to permit application of a non-categorical approach that considers the defendant’s conduct.” Supplemental Brief for the United States at 5, Jenkins & Jackson, 2018 WL 2186183 & 2018 WL 2186185 (U.S. Apr. 17, 2018) (Nos. 17-97 & 17-651). The government was careful to distance section 924(c)(3)(B) from one of the prime justifications for applying the categorical approach to the residual clause of section 924(e) of the ACCA, section 16(b), and the guidelines: A non-categorical approach … may make particular sense in the context of Section 924(c)(3)(B). Unlike Section 16(b) of the ACCA’s residual clause, Section 924(c)(3)(B)’s definition of a “crime of violence” is never applied to a prior conviction, the specific facts of which may not be before the court. Section 924(c) instead employs the term “crime of violence” to describe the conduct involved in the present offense with which the defendant is charged. Id. at 3–4. We will reserve for our reconsideration of Jenkins and Jackson whether that difference is enough to justify jettisoning the categorical approach for section 924(c)(3)(B). For the moment, it is enough for us to note that the guidelines, like sections 924(e) and 16(b), require courts to consider the defendant’s prior offenses. Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 27 Second, with the exception of Justice Thomas, no justice swore o the categorical approach for the residual clause of the ACCA. Id. at 1253–54 (Thomas, J., dissenting). Rather, in the portion of his dissent joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito, Justice Thomas advocated abandoning that approach only when applying section 16. Id. at 1254–59 (Thomas, J., dissenting). In its place, he advocated an “underlying-facts approach”—i.e., analyzing the crime as committed. In Justice Thomas’s opinion, “both interpretations [were] linguistically possible,” id. at 1255; however, he saw the diction and context of section 16 and, in particular, the doctrine of constitutional avoidance as counseling strongly in favor of the underlyingfacts approach, id. at 1255–56. In developing this argument, Justice Thomas was careful to distance section 16 from the factors that had justi ed adopting the categorical approach for the ACCA—factors that apply with equal force to the guidelines. First, adopting the underlying-facts approach for the ACCA would have raised Sixth Amendment concerns. Although those same concerns apply to the mandatory guidelines, see Booker, 543 U.S. 220, a jury right does not attach to immigration cases, Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. at 1256. When section 16 is applied to criminal cases, Justice Thomas suggested that the defendant’s prior conduct should simply be indicted and proven at trial. Regardless of the merits of that suggestion (which Johnson rejected for the ACCA, see 135 S. Ct at 2580 (Alito, J., dissenting)), that forward-looking strategy cannot be applied to the now-concluded era of mandatory guidelines. Justice Thomas also invoked context in support of his view. He noted that in the unique setting of the INA the Supreme Court had required an underlying-conduct approach to identify other aggravated felonies. Dimaya, 138 S. Ct. at 1257. Finally, Justice Thomas 28 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 thought that the practical concerns that had motivated Johnson, and which apply with equal force to the mandatory guidelines, did not obtain in the context of immigration proceedings. Immigration judges, rather than courts, would have to shoulder the burden of identifying past conduct. Justice Thomas thought that “those judges [were] already accustomed to nding facts about the conduct underlying an alien's prior convictions”—a task already imposed by other aspects of the INA—and there was no evidence that they had struggled to do so. Id. at 1257–58. The same cannot be said of judges’ e orts to apply the guidelines residual clause. B The penultimate question before us is whether a vagueness challenge directed against the guidelines is possible for defendants such as Cross and Davis whose sentences were handed down before Booker, when the guidelines were mandatory. If so, then they have a right to be resentenced because the residual clause that underlay both of their sentences suffered from the same vagueness that doomed its counterpart in the ACCA. The answer to that question depends in the rst instance on the breadth of the Supreme Court’s holding in Beckles. In the context of a sentence imposed after the guidelines became discretionary, Beckles upheld the residual clause of the guidelines against a Johnson-inspired vagueness challenge. 137 S. Ct. at 890. The Supreme Court took care, however, to specify that it was addressing only the post-Booker, advisory version of the guidelines. It held “that the advisory Guidelines are not subject to vagueness challenges under the Due Process Clause,” id. at 890 (emphasis added), and referred repeatedly to the “advisory Guidelines” throughout the opinion, id. at Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 29 890, 892, 894, 895, 896, 897. Indeed, it expressly distinguished Johnson on the ground that Johnson dealt with a binding residual clause: Unlike the ACCA … the advisory Guidelines do not x the permissible range of sentences. To the contrary, they merely guide the exercise of a court’s discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence within the statutory range. Accordingly, the Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge under the Due Process Clause. The residual clause in § 4B1.2(a)(2) therefore is not void for vagueness. Id. at 892. We take the Court at its word: the Beckles opinion applies only to the guidelines as they have been since 2005, not to the pre-Booker mandatory regime. Even more importantly, Beckles’s logic for declining to apply the vagueness doctrine rests entirely on the advisory quality of the current guidelines. The vagueness doctrine ensures that a “law regulating private conduct by xing permissible sentences provides notice and avoids arbitrary enforcement by clearly specifying the range of penalties available.” Id. at 895. Those purposes distinguish vagueness from the ex post facto clause, which Peugh tells us does apply to the advisory guidelines. The ex post facto clause bars a retroactive law if it “creates a signi cant risk of a higher sentence.” 137 S. Ct. at 895 (quoting Peugh, 569 U.S. at 550). Lengthening advisory guidelines terms increases the likelihood of prolonged sentences—thereby raising ex post facto concerns—because the advisory guidelines exert a powerful anchoring in uence on judges. Id. at 894; Peugh, 569 U.S. at 541–42. In contrast, advi- 30 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 sory guidelines do “not implicate the twin concerns underlying vagueness doctrine—providing notice and preventing arbitrary enforcement,” Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 894: [E]ven perfectly clear Guidelines could not provide notice to a person who seeks to regulate his conduct so as to avoid particular penalties within the statutory range. That is because even if a person behaves so as to avoid an enhanced sentence … the sentencing court retains discretion to impose the enhanced sentence … . The advisory Guidelines also do not implicate … arbitrary enforcement … . An unconstitutionally vague law invites arbitrary enforcement … if it ‘leaves judges and jurors free to decide, without any legally xed standards, what is prohibited and what is not in each particular case’ or permits them to prescribe the sentences or sentencing range available. The Guidelines, however, do not regulate the public by prohibiting any conduct or by ‘establishing minimum and maximum penalties for [any] crime.’ Rather, the Guidelines advise sentencing courts how to exercise their discretion within the bounds established by Congress. Id. at 894–95 (quoting respectively Giaccio v. Pennsylvania, 382 U.S. 399, 402–03 (1996) and Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 396 (1989)) (alterations in original) (citations omitted). Thus, the vagueness doctrine does not prohibit including the residual clause in the advisory guidelines. The mandatory guidelines did, however, implicate the concerns of the vagueness doctrine. Beckles rea rmed that the void-for-vagueness doctrine applies to “laws that x the permissible sentences for criminal o enses.” 137 S. Ct. at 892. As Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 31 Booker described, the mandatory guidelines did just that. They xed sentencing ranges from a constitutional perspective: The [mandatory] Guidelines … are not advisory; they are mandatory and binding on all judges. While subsection (a) of [18 U.S.C.] § 3553 of the sentencing statute lists the Sentencing Guidelines as one factor to be considered in imposing a sentence, subsection (b) directs that the court “shall impose a sentence of the kind, and within the range” established by the Guidelines, subject to departures in speci c, limited cases. … The availability of a departure in speci ed circumstances does not avoid the constitutional issue … . The Guidelines permit departures from the prescribed sentencing range in cases in which the judge “ nds that there exists an aggravating or mitigating circumstance of a kind, or to a degree, not adequately taken into consideration by the Sentencing Commission in formulating the guidelines that should result in a sentence different from that described.” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b)(1) (2000 ed., Supp. IV). At rst glance, one might believe that the ability of a district judge to depart from the Guidelines means that she is bound only by the statutory maximum. … Importantly, however, departures are not available in every case, and in fact are unavailable in most. In most cases, as a matter of law, the Commission will have adequately taken all relevant factors into account, and no departure will be legally permissible. In those instances, the judge is bound to impose a sentence within the Guidelines range. … Booker’s case illustrates the mandatory nature of the Guidelines. … Under these facts, the Guidelines 32 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 speci ed an o ense level of 32 … . Booker’s is a run-ofthe-mill drug case, and does not present any factors that were inadequately considered by the Commission. The sentencing judge would therefore have been reversed had he not imposed a sentence within the level 32 Guidelines range. Booker, 543 U.S. at 233–34 (emphasis in original). In sum, as the Supreme Court understood in Booker, the residual clause of the mandatory guidelines did not merely guide judges’ discretion; rather, it mandated a speci c sentencing range and permitted deviation only on narrow, statutorily xed bases. The Court thus addressed, and rejected, the argument that the possibility of departures from the mandatory guideline range was enough to make it advisory. We might add that even statutory minimum sentences are not exempt from departures, if, for instance, the government les a substantialassistance motion, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), or the court nds that the defendant is entitled to the statutory safety valve, id. § 3553(f). Yet, as we know from Johnson’s treatment of the ACCA, statutory minima must comply with the prohibition of vague laws. The existence of some play in the joints is not enough to change the character of either statutory sentencing limitations or the pre-Booker guidelines from mandatory to advisory. We conclude that the mandatory guidelines’ incorporation of the vague residual clause impeded a person’s e orts to “regulate his conduct so as to avoid particular penalties” and left it to the judge to “prescribe the … sentencing range available.” Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 894–95. Therefore, unlike the advisory guidelines, the mandatory guidelines implicated the “twin concerns” of the vagueness doctrine. Id. at 894. The Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 33 mandatory guidelines are thus subject to attack on vagueness grounds. C The last question is whether Johnson applies retroactively to the residual clause of the career-o ender guideline. A newly announced constitutional rule applies retroactively if it is either a substantive rule or a “watershed rule[] of criminal procedure.” Welch, 136 S. Ct. at 1264 (quoting Sa e v. Parks, 494 U.S. 484, 495 (1990)). A substantive rule “alters the range of conduct or the class of persons that the law punishes,” whereas procedural rules “regulate only the manner of determining the defendant’s culpability.” Id. at 1264–65 (quoting Schriro v. Summerlin, 542 U.S. 348, 353 (2004)). In Welch, the Supreme Court held that Johnson quali es as a substantive rule, because it narrowed the class to whom the ACCA’s mandatory minimum applied, id. at 1265: Before Johnson, the [ACCA] applied to any person who possessed a rearm after three violent felony convictions, even if one or more of those convictions fell under only the residual clause. An o ender in that situation faced 15 years to life in prison. After Johnson, the same person engaging in the same conduct is no longer subject to the Act and faces at most 10 years in prison. The residual clause is invalid under Johnson, so it can no longer mandate or authorize any sentence. Johnson establishes, in other words, that “even the use of impeccable fact nding procedures could not legitimate” a sentence based on that clause. It follows that Johnson is a substantive decision. 34 Nos. 17-2282 & 17-2724 Id. (quoting United States v. U.S. Coin & Currency, 401 U.S. 715, 724 (1971)). The same logic justi es treating Johnson as substantive, and therefore retroactive, when applied to the mandatory guidelines. Just as excising the residual clause from the ACCA changed the punishment associated with illegally carrying a rearm, striking down the residual clause in the mandatory guidelines changes the sentencing range associated with Cross’s and Davis’s bank robberies. At the same time, it narrows the set of defendants punishable as career o enders for the commission of any number of crimes. In other words, Johnson has e ectively changed Davis’s and Cross’s substantive crime for sentencing purposes from bank robbery by a career o ender to simple bank robbery. Elimination of the residual clause of section 4B1.2(a)(2) (in its mandatory guise) thus “alters the range of conduct or the class of persons that the law punishes” and quali es as a retroactive, substantive rule. Welch, 136 S. Ct. at 1264 (quoting Schriro, 542 U.S. at 353). V We hold that both Cross and Davis are entitled to relief from their career-o ender classi cations, based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson. We thus REVERSE the district court and REMAND these cases with instructions to grant Cross’s and Davis’s section 2255 motions and to resentence them in accordance with this opinion.

Primary Holding

Seventh Circuit grants sentencing relief to defendants sentenced under the residual clause of the mandatory Guidelines.

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