I am grateful to a whole bunch of folks who made sure I did not miss the notable ruling by a Third Circuit panel today in US v. Banks, No. 21-5762 (6th Cir. Nov. 30, 2022) (available here). Banks is yet another case involving another circuit finding notable guideline commentary problematic and inapplicable in the wake of recent Supreme Court administrative law rulings. Here is how the Banks opinion starts and some key passages within (footnotes omitted):
A jury convicted Frederick Banks of wire fraud, and the District Court sentenced him to 104 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. On appeal, Banks argues that the District Court erred in three ways, by (1) denying his constitutionally protected right to self-representation, (2) applying the loss enhancement to the fraud guideline in the United States Sentencing Guidelines because there was no “actual loss,” and (3) imposing certain special conditions of supervised release. We conclude that the loss enhancement in the Guideline’s application notes impermissibly expands the word “loss” to include both intended loss and actual loss. Thus, the District Court erred when it applied the loss enhancement because Banks’s crimes caused no actual loss. We will, therefore, affirm the judgment of the District Court except on the issue of loss enhancement; we will remand this case to the District Court for it to determine loss and to resentence Banks….
Next, we turn to Banks’s argument that the District Court erroneously applied the intended-loss enhancement to his sentence when the victim suffered $0 in actual losses. The application of the intended-loss enhancement hinges on the meaning of the term “loss” as used in Guideline § 2B1.1. Because the United States Sentencing Commission has interpreted “loss” in its commentary, the weight afforded to that commentary may affect the meaning of “loss.”…
Our review of common dictionary definitions of “loss” point to an ordinary meaning of “actual loss.” None of these definitions suggest an ordinary understanding that “loss” means “intended loss.” To be sure, in context, “loss” could mean pecuniary or non-pecuniary loss and could mean actual or intended loss.55 We need not decide, however, whether one clear meaning of the word “loss” emerges broadly, covering every application of the word. Rather, we must decide whether, in the context of a sentence enhancement for basic economic offenses, the ordinary meaning of the word “loss” is the loss the victim actually suffered. We conclude it is.
Because the commentary expands the definition of “loss” by explaining that generally “loss is the greater of actual loss or intended loss,” we accord the commentary no weight. Banks is thus entitled to be resentenced without the 12-point intended-loss enhancement in § 2B1.1.