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McIntosh v. United States, 2024 U.S.  LEXIS 1815 (S. Ct. Apr. 17, 2024).


Argued February 27, 2024—Decided April 17, 2024


Justice Sotomayor


Petitioner Louis McIntosh was indicted on multiple counts of Hobbs Act robbery and firearm offenses. The indictment set forth the demand that McIntosh “shall forfeit . . . all property . . . derived from proceeds traceable to the commission of the [Hobbs Act] offenses.” The Government also later provided McIntosh with a pretrial bill of particulars that included as property subject to forfeiture $75,000 in cash and a BMW that McIntosh purchased just five days after one of the robberies. After a jury convicted McIntosh, the District Court imposed a forfeiture of $75,000 and the BMW at the sentencing hearing. Although the District Court also ordered the Government to submit an order of forfeiture for the court’s signature within a week from the hearing, the Government failed to do so. On appeal, the Government moved for a limited remand to supplement the record with a written order of forfeiture. The Second Circuit granted the unopposed motion. Back in District Court, McIntosh argued that the failure to comply with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b)(2)(B)—which provides that “[u]nless doing so is impractical,” a federal district court “must enter the preliminary order [of forfeiture] sufficiently in advance of sentencing to allow the parties to suggest revisions or modifications before the order becomes final as to the defendant”—meant that the District Court could not proceed with forfeiture at all. The District Court overruled McIntosh’s objections, finding that the Rule is a time-related directive, and that the failure to enter a preliminary order of forfeiture before sentencing did not prevent the court from ordering forfeiture because the missed deadline did not prejudice McIntosh. The Second Circuit affirmed in relevant part.


Held: A district court’s failure to comply with Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B)’s requirement to enter a preliminary order before sentencing does not bar a judge from ordering forfeiture at sentencing subject to harmless-error principles on appellate review. Pp. 5–14.


(a)Although the District Court did not comply with Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) when it failed to enter a preliminary order of forfeiture before McIntosh’s initial sentencing, the District Court retained its power to order forfeiture against McIntosh. Pp. 5–11.


  1. This Court has identified three types of time limits: (i) jurisdictional deadlines; (ii) mandatory claim-processing rules, and (iii) time-related directives. See Dolan v. United States, 560 U. S. 605, 610–611. McIntosh claims that Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) is a claim-processing rule—a mandatory deadline that regulates the timing of motions or claims before the court and that, unlike jurisdictional deadlines, is subject to waiver and forfeiture by the litigant. Id., at 610. The Government, on the other hand, argues that Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) is a flexible time-related directive—a deadline that seeks speed by directing a public official to act by a certain time and that, if missed, does not deprive the official of “the power to take the action to which the deadline applies.” Id., at 611. Noncompliance with a mandatory claim-processing rule is presumed to be prejudicial, Manrique v. United States, 581 U. S. 116, 125 (2017), but noncompliance with a time-related directive is, in this context, subject to harmless-error principles on appellate review, Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 52(a). The Court agrees with the Second Circuit and the Government that Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) establishes a time-related directive. Pp. 5–7.


  1. The Court in Dolan addressed the proper remedy when a district court misses a statutory deadline to take action related to criminal sentencing imposed by a statute that “ ‘d[id] not specify a consequence for noncompliance.’ ” 560 U. S., at 611. The Court held that the provision at issue was a time-related directive, such that, if “a sentencing court misses the . . . deadline,” it retains the power to act in that circumstance. Ibid. Other cases similarly have recognized that certain deadlines, if missed, do not deprive a public official of the power to take the action to which the deadline applies. See, e.g., Barnhart v. Peabody Coal Co., 537 U. S. 149, 171–172; Regions Hospital v. Shalala, 522 U. S. 448, 459, n. 3; United States v. James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U. S. 43, 63–65. These cases involved timing provisions that did not specify a consequence for the public officials’ noncompliance with the prescribed deadlines. Pp. 7–8.



  1. Several features of Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) lead to the conclusion that the Rule is best understood as a time-related directive. First, its plain language contemplates flexibility regarding the timing of a preliminary order’s entry, providing the indeterminate command that a preliminary order be entered “sufficiently in advance of sentencing” “[u]nless doing so is impractical.” This flexibility takes the Rule further away from the category of “rigid” and “ ‘inflexible claim-processing rule[s].’ ” Eberhart v. United States, 546 U. S. 12, 13 (per curiam). Second, Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) does not impose a specific consequence for noncompliance, in contrast to other parts of Rule 32.2. See, e.g., 32.2(a). In the absence of such specification, courts typically “will not in the ordinary course impose their own coercive sanction” for noncompliance with a timing directive. James Daniel Good, 510 U. S., at 63. Third, Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) governs the conduct of the district court, not the litigants. Mandatory claim-processing rules ordinarily “requir[e] that the parties take certain procedural steps at certain specified times,” Henderson v. Shinseki, 562 U. S. 428, 435 (emphasis added), and time-related directives typically spur public officials to act within a specified time. That distinction holds even in the examples that McIntosh identifies, and he has not identified a mandatory claim-processing rule that is analogous to Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B). Pp. 8–11.


(b) McIntosh’s contrary arguments are unpersuasive. He points to the Rule’s use of the word “must” to highlight its mandatory character, but such language standing “alone has not always led this Court to interpret statutes to bar judges . . . from taking action to which a missed statutory deadline refers.” Dolan, 560 U. S., at 611–612. Construed in context, the Rule contemplates some flexibility with its impracticality exception and indeterminate command that a preliminary order be entered “sufficiently in advance of sentencing.” Nor does it “mak[e] sense,” as McIntosh claims, to classify Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) as a mandatory claim-processing rule because the Government must move the process forward. Although the Government plays an indispensable role in the criminal-forfeiture process, the Rule is directed exclusively to the sentencing court. McIntosh also contends that an affirmance here would deprive the Rule of any effect, but a timely objection likely will prompt the district court to enter the preliminary order and, if appropriate, postpone sentencing. A timely objection would, at the very least, result in harmless-error review of the Rule’s violation. Finally, because McIntosh has not shown that reading the requirement as a time-related directive would frustrate significantly Rule 32.2’s effectiveness, McIntosh’s invocation of the Rule’s purpose—to ensure due process and promote judicial economy—falls flat. Pp. 11–13.

(c) Noncompliance with Rule 32.2(b)(2)(B) is a procedural error subject to harmlessness review. Because McIntosh did not challenge the lower courts’ harmlessness analysis in either his certiorari petition or his opening brief, this Court need not revisit it. P. 13.


58 F. 4th 606, affirmed.


SOTOMAYOR, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.



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