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Bloate v. United States

March 8, 2010

TAYLOR JAMES BLOATE, PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES



On Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Eighth Circuit Court Below: 534 F. 3d 893

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

OCTOBER TERM, 2009

Argued October 6, 2009

The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 (Act) requires a criminal defendant's trial to commence within 70 days of his indictment or initial appearance, 18 U. S. C. §3161(c)(1), and entitles him to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met, §3162(a)(2). As relevant here, the Act automatically excludes from the 70-day period "delay resulting from ... proceedings concerning the defendant," 18 U. S. C. A. §3161(h)(1) (hereinafter subsection (h)(1)), and separately permits a district court to exclude "delay resulting from a continuance" it grants, provided the court makes findings required by §3161(h)(7) (hereinafter subsection (h)(7)). Petitioner's indictment on federal firearm and drug possession charges started the 70-day clock on August 24, 2006. After petitioner's arraignment, the Magistrate Judge ordered the parties to file pretrial motions by September 13. On September 7, the court granted petitioner's motion to extend that deadline, but on the new due date, September 25, petitioner waived his right to file pretrial motions. On October 4, the Magistrate Judge found the waiver voluntary and intelligent. Over the next three months, petitioner's trial was delayed several times, often at petitioner's instigation. On February 19, 2007 -- 179 days after he was indicted -- he moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming that the Act's 70-day limit had elapsed. In denying the motion, the District Court excluded the time from September 7 through October 4 as pretrial motion preparation time. At trial, petitioner was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to concurrent prison terms. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss, holding that the period from September 7 through October 4 was automatically excludable from the 70-day limit under subsection (h)(1).

Held: The time granted to prepare pretrial motions is not automatically excludable from the 70-day limit under subsection (h)(1). Such time may be excluded only when a district court grants a continuance based on appropriate findings under subsection (h)(7). Pp. 6-18.

(a) The delay at issue is governed by subsection (h)(1)(D) (hereinafter subparagraph (D)), the enumerated category that renders automatically excludable "delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion." This provision communicates Congress' judgment that pretrial motion-related delay is automatically excludable only from the time a pretrial motion is filed through a specified hearing or disposition point, and that other pretrial motion-related delay is excludable only if it results in a continuance under subsection (h)(7). This limitation is significant because Congress knew how to define the boundaries of subsection (h)(1)'s enumerated exclusions broadly when it so desired. Although the period of delay the Government seeks to exclude in this case results from a proceeding governed by subparagraph (D), that period precedes the first day upon which Congress specified that such delay may be excluded automatically and thus is not automatically excludable. Pp. 7-10.

(b) This analysis resolves the automatic excludability inquiry because "[a] specific provision" (here, subparagraph (D)) "controls one[s] of more general application" (here, subsections (h)(1) and (h)(7)). Gozlon-Peretz v. United States, 498 U. S. 395, 407. A contrary result would depart from the statute in a manner that underscores the propriety of this Court's approach. Subsection (h)(1)'s phrase "including but not limited to" does not show that subsection (h)(1) permits automatic exclusion of delay related to an enumerated category of proceedings, but outside the boundaries set forth in the subparagraph expressly addressed to that category. That would confuse the illustrative nature of the subsection's list of categories with the contents of the categories themselves. Reading the "including but not limited to" clause to modify the contents of each subparagraph in the list as well as the list itself would violate settled statutory construction principles by ignoring subsection (h)(1)'s structure and grammar and in so doing rendering even the clearest of the subparagraphs indeterminate and virtually superfluous. See generally id., at 410. Subsection (h)(1)'s context supports this Court's conclusion. Subsection (h)(7) provides that delay "resulting from a continuance granted by any judge" may be excluded, but only if the judge finds that "the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial," and records those findings. In setting forth the statutory factors justifying a subsection (h)(7) continuance, Congress twice recognized the importance of adequate pretrial preparation time. See §§3161(h)(7)(B)(ii), 3161(h)(7)(B)(iv). The Court's determination that the delay at issue is not automatically excludable gives full effect to subsection (h)(7), and respects its provisions for excluding certain types of delay only where a district court makes findings justifying the exclusion. The Court's precedents also support this reading of subsection (h)(1). See Zedner v. United States, 547 U. S. 489, 502. Pp. 10-16.

(c) The Act does not force a district court to choose between rejecting a defendant's request for time to prepare pretrial motions and risking dismissal of the indictment if preparation time delays the trial. A court may still exclude preparation time under subsection (h)(7) by granting a continuance for that purpose based on recorded findings. Subsection (h)(7) provides "[m]uch of the Act's flexibility," Zedner, 547 U. S., at 498, giving district courts "discretion ... to accommodate limited delays for case-specific needs," id., at 499. The Government suggests that a district court may fail to make the necessary subsection (h)(7) findings, leading to a windfall gain for a defendant who induces delay beyond the 70-day limit. But dismissal need not represent a windfall. If the court dismisses the charges without prejudice, the Government may refile charges or reindict. In ruling on a motion to dismiss under the Act, the district court should consider, inter alia, the party responsible for the delay. Pp. 16-18.

(d) This Court does not consider whether any of the Act's other exclusions would apply to all or part of the September 7 through October 4 period that is not automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1). P. 18.

534 F. 3d 893, reversed and remanded.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a concurring opinion. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas

Opinion of the Court

559 U. S. ____ (2010)

The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 (Speedy Trial Act or Act), 18 U. S. C. §3161 et seq., requires that a criminal defendant's trial commence within 70 days after he is charged or makes an initial appearance, whichever is later, see §3161(c)(1), and entitles him to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met, §3162(a)(2). The Act, however, excludes from the 70-day period delays due to certain enumerated events. §3161(h). As relevant here, "delay resulting from . . . proceedings concerning the defendant" is automatically excludable from a Speedy Trial Act calculation.*fn1 18 U. S. C. A. §3161(h)(1) (Supp. 2009) (hereinafter subsection (h)(1)). In addition, "delay resulting from a continuance" granted by the district court may be excluded if the district court makes the findings required by §3161(h)(7) (hereinafter subsection (h)(7)).

This case requires us to decide the narrow question whether time granted to a party to prepare pretrial motions is automatically excludable from the Act's 70-day limit under subsection (h)(1), or whether such time may be excluded only if a court makes case-specific findings under subsection (h)(7). The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that pretrial motion preparation time is automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1).*fn2 534 F. 3d 893, 898 (2008). We granted certiorari, 556 U. S. ___ (2009), and now reverse.

I.

A.

On August 2, 2006, police officers surveilling an apartment building for drug activity saw petitioner and his girlfriend enter a car parked in front of the building and drive away. After observing petitioner commit several traffic violations, the officers stopped the vehicle. They approached the car and noticed two small bags of cocaine on petitioner's lap. After the officers read petitioner his Miranda warnings, petitioner made inculpatory statements. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966). Petitioner denied any association with the apartment building where the car had been parked, but his girlfriend admitted that she lived there and consented to a search of her residence. The officers who conducted the search uncovered several items that belonged to petitioner, including an identification card, cocaine, three firearms, ammunition, and a bulletproof vest. The police arrested petitioner the next day.

On August 24, a grand jury indicted petitioner for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(1), and for knowing and intentional possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of cocaine, in violation of 21 U. S. C. §841(a)(1). The August 24 indictment started the Speedy Trial Act's 70-day clock. See 18 U. S. C. §3161(c)(1). After petitioner's arraignment on September 1, a Magistrate Judge entered a scheduling order requiring, inter alia, that the parties file pretrial motions by September 13.

On September 7, petitioner filed a motion to extend the deadline to file pretrial motions from September 13 to September 21. The Magistrate Judge granted the motion and extended the deadline by an extra four days beyond petitioner's request, to September 25. On September 25, however, petitioner filed a "Waiver of Pretrial Motions" advising the court that he did not wish to file any pretrial motions.

On October 4, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing to consider petitioner's "waiver," at which petitioner confirmed that he wished to waive his right to file pretrial motions. After a colloquy, the Magistrate Judge found that petitioner's waiver was voluntary and intelligent.

Over the next three months, petitioner's trial was delayed for several reasons. Though these delays are not directly relevant to the question presented here, we recount them to explain the full context in which that question arises. On November 8, petitioner moved to continue the trial date, stating that his counsel needed additional time to prepare for trial. The District Court granted the motion and reset the trial for December 18.

The parties then met informally and prepared a plea agreement, which they provided to the court. The District Court scheduled a change of plea hearing for December 20. At the hearing, however, petitioner declined to implement the agreement and requested a new attorney. The District Court rescheduled the trial for February 26, 2007, granted petitioner's attorney's subsequent motion to withdraw, and appointed new counsel.

On February 19, 2007 -- 179 days after petitioner was indicted -- petitioner moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming that the Act's 70-day limit had elapsed. The District Court denied the motion. In calculating how many of the 179 days counted toward the 70-day limit, the District Judge excluded the period from September 7 through October 4 as "within the extension of time granted to file pretrial motions."*fn3 Order in No. 4:06CR518-SNL (ED Mo.), Doc. 44, p. 2.

In late February, a matter arose in an unrelated case on the District Court's docket, which required the court to reschedule petitioner's trial. After obtaining the consent of the parties and finding that a continuance would serve the public interest, the District Court continued petitioner's trial from February 26 to March 5, 2007. Petitioner's 2-day trial began on that date. The jury found petitioner guilty on both counts and the District Court later sentenced him to concurrent 30-year terms of imprisonment.

B.

Petitioner appealed his convictions and sentence to the Eighth Circuit, which affirmed the denial of his motion to dismiss for a Speedy Trial Act violation. As relevant, the Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that the time from September 7 (the original deadline for filing pretrial motions) through October 4 (when the trial court held a hearing on petitioner's decision to waive the right to file pretrial motions) was excludable from the Act's 70-day limit. Although the District Court did not identify which provision of the Act supported this exclusion, the Court of Appeals held that "pretrial motion preparation time" is automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1) -- which covers "delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant" -- as long as "the [district] court specifically grants time for that purpose." 534 F. 3d, at 897.*fn4 In reaching this conclusion, the Eighth Circuit joined seven other Courts of Appeals that interpret subsection (h)(1) the same way.*fn5 Two Courts of Appeals, the Fourth and Sixth Circuits, interpret subsection (h)(1) differently, holding that time for preparing pretrial motions is outside subsection (h)(1)'s scope.*fn6 We granted certiorari to resolve this conflict.

II.

As noted, the Speedy Trial Act requires that a criminal defendant's trial commence within 70 days of a defendant's initial appearance or indictment, but excludes from the 70-day period days lost to certain types of delay. Section 3161(h) specifies the types of delays that are excludable from the calculation. Some of these delays are excludable only if the district court makes certain findings enumerated in the statute. See §3161(h)(7). Other delays are automatically excludable, i.e., they may be excluded without district court findings. As relevant here, subsection (h)(1) requires the automatic exclusion of "[a]ny period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not limited to" periods of delay resulting from eight enumerated subcategories of proceedings.*fn7 The Government contends that the time the District Court granted ...


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