Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Second Circuit: Completion of Prison Sentence Moots Appeal from Denial of Compassionate Release Motion

In United States v. Chestnut, the Second Circuit (Sullivan, joined by Cabranes and Raggi) dismissed as moot a defendant’s appeal from the denial of his compassionate release motion, where the defendant had completed his sentence, and had “neither requested that the district court reduce his term of [supervised release] nor advanced any arguments to suggest that such a reduction is warranted.”

Chestnut sought compassionate release based on (i) his need to care for his children after their removal from their mother’s custody; and (ii) his medical conditions, which placed him at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The district court (Daniels, SDNY) denied the motion. While Chestnut’s appeal was pending, he was released from BOP custody.

The Circuit concluded that the appeal was moot because Chestnut only sought a reduced prison sentence, and his prison sentence was now complete. In some cases, the Circuit said, “an appeal challenging a criminal sentence will not be rendered moot when the defendant is released from prison so long as the defendant is still subject to a term of supervision.” That’s because “[a]rguments for a shorter overall sentence could potentially cause the district court to reduce a defendant’s term of supervision, whether because the original term is deemed to have been too long from inception or to compensate for the excess time the defendant served in prison.” But this was not such a case: Chestnut had only sought release from prison, and his grounds for compassionate release (child care and COVID-19 risk) only pertained to his prison term, not his supervision.

Finally, although his appeal was moot, the Circuit noted that Chestnut could move to reduce his term of supervision pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) and FRCP 32.1(c).

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