Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Appellate Remand that Requires Solely Ministerial Act by District Court Does Not Toll Finality Clock

Stanley Burrell v. United States, Docket No. 05-2945-cr (2d Cir. Oct. 18, 2006) (Cardamone, Walker, Sotomayor): This is a real snoozer; the Court narrowly holds that when it affirms a conviction and sentence but remands the case to the district court to perform a purely ministerial act (here, vacatur of one of two counts of conviction, as a lesser-included offense, where the vacatur could not affect the defendant’s sentence), the defendant’s conviction became final (for retroactivity purposes) when the Supreme Court denied cert. on the original appeal. E.g., Op. 12 (“[A] remand for ministerial purposes, such as the correction of language in a judgment or the entry of a judgment in accordance with a mandate, does not delay a judgment’s finality.”). This was critical to Burrell because while his conviction became final long before Booker under the theory adopted by the Circuit, it would not yet be final — and thus he could benefit from Booker — under his theory, since the district court somehow waited until April 2005 to abide by the Circuit’s 2002 mandate to correct the judgment by vacating one count.

That’s the gist of the decision, and it apparently creates a conflict with the Ninth Circuit. See United States v. Colvin, 204 F.3d 1221 (9th Cir. 2000). We who live in the Second Realm should all thank the Circuit for ensuring that Burrell, an evil purveyor of poison (or crack dealer), will spend the rest of his natural life in prison, though his Guidelines-mandated sentence concededly violates the Sixth Amendment. Hwew – that was a close one!

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