United States v. Tinklenberg: SC Reverses Sixth Circuit Twice but Still Affirms

The Supreme Court today released its decision in United States v. Tinklenberg, a case arising out of the Sixth Circuit. In Tinklenberg, the Court had to interpret two provisions of the Speedy Trial Act, which requires dismissal if a trial or plea does not commence within 70 days. The first provision excludes from the 70-day period “delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion.” 18 U.S.C. § 3161(D).

The Sixth Circuit focused on the phrase “delay resulting from” and held that a pretrial motion falls within this exclusion only if it “actually cause[s] a delay, or the expectation of a delay, of trial.” The Supreme Court focused more on the phrase “from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing,” and held that this period of time is excluded “irrespective of whether it actually causes, or is expected to cause, delay in starting a trial.” While the Court acknowledged that the Sixth Circuit’s reading is “linguistically reasonable,” it pointed out that all other court’s that have decided this issue have gone the other way, and the Sixth Circuit’s rule would be significantly more difficult to administer.

The second provision excluded “delay resulting from transportation of any defendant from another district, or to and from places of examination or hospitalization, except that any time consumed in excess of ten days from the date an order of removal or an order directing such transportation, and the defendant’s arrival at the destination shall be presumed to be unreasonable.” §3161(h)(1)(F) (2006 ed., Supp. III) (emphasis added). The Sixth Circuit in interpreting this provision, exempted holidays and weekends. The relevant time period in Tinklenberg was 20 days, but that period included 3 weekends and 2 holidays, which meant that only 2 days counted for Speedy Trial purposes.

The Supreme Court held that Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 45(a) at the relevant time did not apply to statutes, and that under the common-law rule, weekend days and holidays are included when counting a statutory time period of 10 days unless the statute specifically excludes them.

Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit’s two errors cancelled each other out: the first period should not have been excluded, but the second period should have been excluded. A win for Tinklenberg even if he has already served his sentence by this point.

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