from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
CLEMENT, PRADO, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.
BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge
tasked with deciding whether Lawrence James Taylor's
claim that his sentence enhancement is no longer valid under
the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA") is
constitutionally or statutorily based in light of the
district court's conclusion that the now constitutionally
defunct residual clause "played no role" at his
sentencing. We hold that Taylor's claim is
constitutionally based and warrants relief under 28 U.S.C.
2006, Lawrence James Taylor pleaded guilty to possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon-which usually carries a maximum
sentence of 10 years' imprisonment. See 18
U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). The presentence report
("PSR") recommended an enhanced sentence under the
ACCA because Taylor had two "violent
felony" convictions for burglary of a building and
one "crime of violence" conviction for injury to a
child. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B). In
accordance with the ACCA enhancement, the PSR calculated a
guideline range of 235 to 293 months' imprisonment.
objected to several aspects of the PSR. He did not object or
claim, however, that his Texas conviction for injury to a
child was excluded as an ACCA predicate. At his sentencing,
Taylor conceded his injury-to-a-child conviction was a
"crime of violence." The district court adopted the
findings and conclusions of the PSR and imposed a prison term
of 260 months. Taylor appealed his sentence, but did not
contend that the district court erred when it determined his
injury-to-a-child conviction was an ACCA predicate. This
court affirmed. See United States v. Taylor, 263
Fed.Appx. 402, 407 (5th Cir. 2008).
subsequently filed two motions under § 2255 to vacate
his sentence. The district court denied relief as to both
motions, and this court affirmed.
2015, the Supreme Court held that "imposing an increased
sentence under the residual clause of the [ACCA] violates the
Constitution's guarantee of due process."
Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2563
(2015). The Court subsequently announced this was a new,
substantive rule and therefore applied retroactively. See
Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 1268 (2016).
sought assistance from the Federal Public Defender's
office ("FPD") to determine whether his
injury-to-a-child conviction still counted as an ACCA
predicate after Johnson. The FPD moved the district
court for appointment as Taylor's counsel. The district
court denied the motion, reasoning it "would result in a
waste of judicial resources."
requested authorization from this court to file another
petition under § 2255(h) and again asked for appointment
of counsel. While those motions were pending before this
court, Taylor filed a "placeholder" petition in the
district court to guard against exceeding the one-year
deadline to file motions based on Johnson. Taylor
moved the court to stay or abate the placeholder action until
this court could rule on the motions that remained pending
this court ruled on Taylor's motions, the district court
denied the placeholder petition and the motion to stay. The
district court ruled that the placeholder petition was
untimely and that the ACCA's residual clause
"did not play any role in Movant's sentencing."
The district court noted Taylor's concession that the
injury-to-a-child offense counted as a violent felony, and it
stated that Taylor should have challenged the classification
of the conviction at sentencing. The district court opined
that if Taylor were allowed to file his successive §
2255 motion, "the [federal] sentencing scheme . . .
would be upended." The court further declared that
because Taylor did not argue that his injury-to-a-child
conviction fell outside the definition of a violent felony at
sentencing, "there would be no basis for a § 2255
review of that issue even if his second and successive §
2255 motion had been his first and even if it had been timely
court subsequently appointed the FPD as counsel and granted
authorization to file a successive § 2255 petition. When
granting authorization to file the petition, this court
explained that Fifth Circuit precedent indicated that a Texas
conviction for injury to a child may not qualify as an ACCA
predicate offense in light of Johnson. This court
warned, however, that "[the] grant of authorization is
tentative in that the district court must dismiss the §
2255 motion without reaching the merits if it determines that
Taylor has failed to make the showing required to file such a
motion." The case was transferred back to the district
court "for filing as a § 2255 motion."
a week, and before any documents were filed, the district
court entered a sua sponte order dismissing the
action, adopting its reasoning from its previous order
dismissing the placeholder motion. The district court denied
Taylor's request for a certificate of appealability and
concluded that Taylor could not make the showing this court
required because Taylor failed to make the ...