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SAMARITAN ALERT – COMPASSIONATE RELEASE



TWO DISTRICT COURTS REJECT THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE’S POSITION THAT U.S.S.G. 1B1.13(b)(6) IS AN IMPROPER GROUND TO GRANT COMPASSIONATE RELEASE.

 

United States v. Capps, No. 1:11-cr-00108-AGF (E.D. Mo. Jan. 31, 2024):

 

The Government argued that USSG 1B1.13(b)(6) is an invalid exercise of the Commission’s authority.  Specifically, the Government contended that subsection (b)(6) conflicts with 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) because nonretroactive changes to sentencing law are neither extraordinary nor compelling. The Government further argued that the subsection raises separation-of-powers concerns because it contradicts Congress’s deliberate choice not to make the change in sentencing law here retroactive.

 

The Capps Court disagreed “Congress is not shy about placing [sentencing modification] limits where it deems them appropriate.” United States v. Concepcion, 597 U.S. 481, 494(2022). In this case, Congress broadly empowered and directed the Commission to issue binding guidance as to what circumstances qualify for potential reduction. See 18 USC3582(c)(1)(A). Nothing in the statute’s text prohibits the Commission from considering nonretroactive changes in the law as extraordinary and compelling reasons for a sentence reduction.

 

The absence of any such limitation is telling. Congress could have drafted such a blanket prohibition into 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A), as it did in 28 USC 994(t) by specifying that “[r]ehabilitation of the defendant alone shall not be considered an extraordinary and compelling reason.” See also Concepcion, 597 U.S. at 483 (“Congress has shown that it knows how to direct sentencing practices in express terms.”). Congress chose not to impose a similar prohibition with respect to nonretroactive changes in the law.

 

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United States v. Padgett, No. 5:06-cr-13-RH (N.D. Fla. Jan. 30, 2024):

 

The government also asserts that reducing a sentence based on a statutory change that Congress did not make retroactive is inconsistent with Congress’s decision not to make the change retroactive.  Not so.  When Congress chooses not to make a change retroactive, it means the change cannot be invoked by every affected defendant.  It does not repeal § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) or prevent an affected defendant whose circumstances are extraordinary and compelling from invoking that provision.  See United States v. Ruvalcaba, 26 F.4th 14, 27–28 (1st Cir. 2022).  Congress could rationally decide to change a statute — by changing the criteria for or length of minimum mandatory sentences, for example — and not to make that change a basis for a sentence reduction in a typical case, while still allowing a reduction in extraordinary and compelling circumstances.  And indeed, that is precisely what Congress has done. Congress has said rehabilitation alone cannot be an extraordinary and compelling reason for a sentence reduction, but Congress has imposed no other limits on those terms. Id. at 25–26. Neither the Sentencing Commission nor the courts are obligated to read into the statute an exception Congress did not enact. Id. at 26.

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