Monday, August 23, 2010

Troubling Decision on Jurisdiction

An AFPD in our office offers this summary and analysis.


Crack Re-sentencing and Rule 35 Denial Combined


The panel (Judges Boggs and Gilman and Chief District Judge McCalla) ruled that it had no jurisdiction to consider an appeal from the trial court’s denial of relief to the defendant under either the crack amendment or the Rule 35 request.

The Court found that, although it has been over five years since Booker, a number of open questions remain regarding Booker's ramifications. The instant case required the panel to decide Booker’s impact (if any) on the Court's jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a district court’s decision to reduce (or decline to reduce) a final sentence under § 3582(c)(2) and/or Rule 35(b). Panel points out that "the Supreme Court has recently clarified that Booker does not apply to such sentence-reduction proceedings," and cites Dillon. The panel concludes that it lacks jurisdiction to hear a defendant’s appeal of a grant/denial of a sentence reduction pursuant to these sections on Booker “reasonableness” grounds.

Dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Panel begins and ends the analysis by examining whether there is jurisdiction to consider the appeal at all. The government argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal of the district court’s Rule 35(b) determination, but the government did not challenge jurisdiction to hear the appeal of the district court’s § 3582(c)(2) determination.

The Court, however, noted that subject-matter limitations on federal jurisdiction may be policed by the courts themselves sua sponte.

It would appear that this ruling---published as it is---severely limits a defendant’s access to the appellate court for a review of the denial of relief under Rule 35 and 18 U.S.C. 3582, perhaps more so than might have appeared to be the case based upon numerous cases where the 3582 denial has been routinely reviewed by the Circuit Court (e.g., career-offender denials).


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