On March 9, 2021, in United States v. Lancaster, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a district court ruling on a First Step Act motion must consider intervening factual and legal developments when deciding whether to resentence an offender under the Act. In doing so, the Fourth Circuit exacerbated a circuit split regarding the proper scope of the First Step Act. Four circuits, led by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, have taken the opposite position and do not allow their district courts to consider intervening circumstances at all. The United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits, on the other hand, allow their district courts to consider intervening circumstances but do not require them to do so. Within the latter group, the First Circuit created a two-step framework for ruling on a First Step Act motion where a district court may not consider intervening circumstances when deciding whether to resentence but may do so when actually resentencing. This Comment argues that the Fourth Circuit incorrectly expanded the First Step Act’s scope of relief in United States v. Lancaster because it did not properly balance the Act’s statutory text with the Act’s discretionary grant. Additionally, this Comment argues that the Supreme Court should adopt the First Circuit’s two-step framework because that approach best realizes Congress’s intent within the Act’s textual limitations.
Matthew Baker, Scratching the "8-Ball": The Fourth Circuit's Approach to the First Step Act Misses the Mark, 63 B.C. L. Rev. E.Supp. II.-1 (2022), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol63/iss9/5