Saturday, March 27th, 2010

What A Difference A Day Makes

United States v. Janvier, No. 08-5978-cr (2d Cir. March 26, 2010)(Jacobs, Lynch, CJJ, Restani JCIT)

On July 21, 2008, the last day of Janvier’s three-year supervised release term, the probation department submitted a petition to the district court alleging that Janvier had violated the conditions of his supervised release. That same day, the court checked the box on the probation form ordering the “[i]ssuance of a [w]arrant.” The warrant did not actually issue, however, until July 23, 2008. When Janvier appeared in court on the petition he argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to revoke his release because his supervised release term had already expired. The district court disagreed and, after he admitted violating his supervised release, sentenced him to five months’ imprisonment to be followed by thirty-one additional months of supervised release.

On appeal, the circuit reversed based on the “plain language of the governing statute” which only extends the court’s jurisdiction beyond the expiration of supervision if a warrant issues before the supervision period ends.

Courts have long asserted jurisdiction over violation proceedings beyond the expiration of the term, even before there was statutory authorization for it. Generally, courts identified either the filing of the revocation petition or a similar notification to the releasee as the event that would trigger an extension of jurisdiction. As long as the triggering event occurred during the term of release, a court would retain jurisdiction over the matter for the time necessary to adjudicate it.

In 1994, Congress made this authority explicit by enacting 18 U.S.C. § 3583(i) for supervised release and § 3565(c) for probation. The supervised release statute provides that a court’s power to adjudicate a violation petition extends beyond the expiration of the supervision term if, “before its expiration a warrant or summons has been issued” on the basis of a violation charge. This section plainly “identifies the issuance of a warrant or summons during the term of supervised release as the condition for extension of the court’s power to adjudicate a violation charge” and by its very terms applied in Janvier’s case.

The circuit rejected the government’s arguments to the contrary. First, the government argued that the statute is “not exclusive”; it identifies “one particular set of circumstances” but does not preclude retention of jurisdiction under other, analogous circumstances.” While it is true that Congress could have made the exclusivity of the condition for extension of jurisdiction “even clearer” by using a phrase like “if and only if,” the language it chose is “more than clear enough.” Where “a power is granted upon a condition, it can hardly be argued that the power also exists when the condition is unmet.”

The government also argued that § 3583(i) “did not modify” the pre-enactment state of the law. The circuit again disagreed. The predominant view before the enactment of the statute was that the triggering event for extension of jurisdiction was the filing of the violation petition, not the issuance of the warrant. That Congress chose a different event “reads more as a rejection than as an endorsement of that aspect of the prior case law.”

Finally, the government argued that the appellate court should deem ordering the issuance of a warrant to be the same as the issuance of the warrant, and thus find the statute satisfied here. From a “policy standpoint” it might have made more sense to make the judicial officer’s finding of probable cause the triggering point and not the “purely ministerial action of the clerk of the court in actually issuing the warrant.” But the appellate court was “unwilling to rewrite the statute to say something that it does not.” The statute provides that the extension of jurisdiction occurs when a warrant or summons “has been issued.” Here, in contrast, the court merely “directed” the issuance of the warrant. That order did not “issue” the warrant – it directed someone else to issue one – and was not carried out until two days later, after Janvier’s supervision had expired.

Nor does this reading of the statute lead to “absurd or impracticable results.” Compliance with the literal terms of § 3583(i), even for a violation that occurs on the very last day of the release term is a “simple matter.” If the probation officer here had “simply taken the trouble to walk the signed form from the judge to the clerk’s office” there would have been nothing to prevent the warrant from being issued on the same day the petition was presented. Alternatively, “there is no reason why the judge could not be presented with a form warrant or summons ready for signature” along with the petition. “Given the ease with which the statute can be satisfied, there is no reason to contemplate strained readings that would blur the bright line provided by Congress.”


All ended well for Janvier. Except that he served his entire prison sentence – and a big chunk of the new supervised release term – before he won his appeal. According to the district court docket sheet, the judge denied his application for bail pending appeal noting that “[t]he proposed appeal does not raise a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in a recusal [sic] or a sentence reduction.” And there is no indication in the appellate docket sheet that he moved for bail in the circuit.

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