Adler's client, Tarahrick Terry was arrested with 3.9 grams of crack on him in 2008. He is in the final months of his prison term, no matter what the court decides. And he apparently is serving his remaining time on home confinement, according to the Biden administration.
There may be no more than 200 people like Terry still serving time, Justice Department lawyer Eric Feigin told the court Tuesday.
Still, the court agreed to decide Terry's case and resolve a disagreement among lower courts over whether the law gives people who had less than 5 grams of crack on them the same opportunity open to those convicted of possessing more, or much more, crack.
Chief Justice John Roberts said he couldn't understand why Congress would want to deny that chance to “the least culpable offenders.”
The law, like the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, was partly aimed at addressing disparities, which fell disproportionately hard on Black people, in the treatment of people convicted of crack and powder cocaine offenses.
The case only affects people whose crimes took place before August 2010 because the Fair Sentencing Act took effect then and covered crimes committed from that point forward.
The Trump administration had argued that Terry is not eligible to seek a sentence reduction, but the Biden administration changed course in March.
The switch drew some pointed questions from the justices. A perplexed Breyer wondered “why did the government argue what it argued?”
Adam Mortara, a lawyer appointed by the court to argue against Terry's position after the administration changed sides, replied: “Your Honor, I am here to explain many things. The behavior of the United States Government in this case is not one of them.”
A decision is expected by late June.