United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JOY FLOWERS CONTI, District Judge.
On March 26, 2002, defendant Aaron Moore ("defendant") was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 60 months imprisonment followed by two concurrent five-year terms of supervised release for violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). Defendant was released from custody and began serving his terms of supervised release on May 10, 2010. On January 6, 2014, defendant filed a pro se motion to terminate supervised release (ECF No. 44), the third such motion he has filed. ( See ECF Nos. 36, 42.) Defendant argues that termination of his supervised release is warranted because he created a new life for himself, put his criminal past behind him, and worked in his community for over three years without any incidents or violations. (ECF No. 44, at 2.) The government filed a brief in opposition to the motion arguing that early termination of supervised release is appropriate only in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances. (ECF No. 47, at 2 (citing United States v. Laine, 404 F.Appx. 571, 573-74 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam)).) Defendant, through counsel, argued in reply that the language in Laine requiring exceptional or extraordinary circumstances is not the controlling standard for evaluating motions for early termination of supervised release. (ECF No. 52, at 2-3.) The government filed a further response in opposition. (ECF No. 54.) For the reasons that follow, the court finds that it is appropriate to consider whether exceptional or extraordinary circumstances exist in ruling on a motion for early termination of supervised release. Because such circumstances do not exist in this case and because early termination would not otherwise serve the interest of justice, defendant's motion for early termination will be denied.
II. Legal Standard for Early Termination of Supervised Release
A district court may, after considering the applicable factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a),
terminate a term of supervised release and discharge the defendant released at any time after the expiration of one year of supervised release, pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure relating to the modification of probation, if it is satisfied that such action is warranted by the conduct of the defendant released and the interest of justice.
18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1). "Generally... early termination of supervised release under section 3583(e) should occur only when the sentencing judge is satisfied that something exceptional or extraordinary warrants it." Laine, 404 F.Appx. at 573-74 (citing United States v. Lussier, 104 F.3d 32, 36 (2d Cir. 1997)). "Simple compliance with the conditions of supervised release [is] expected and not exceptional...." Id. at 574; see United States v. Abdelhady, Crim. No. 06-63, 2013 WL 1703775, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 19, 2013) ("[I]t is well-settled that mere compliance with the terms of supervised release, while commendable, is not sufficiently extraordinary to justify early termination."); United States v. Dudash, Crim. No. 05-101, 2012 WL 874878, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 14, 2012) ("Defendant's full compliance with all of the conditions of supervised release does not warrant early termination.").
Defendant argues that the "exceptional or extraordinary" language in Laine is not based upon the controlling statute, but upon Lussier, which was not an early termination case. (ECF No. 52, at 5-6.) After failing to raise the issue on direct appeal, the defendant in Lussier moved to amend his restitution under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(2) because payment of restitution was made a condition of his supervised release. Lussier, 104 F.3d at 33. The district court dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. Id. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in discussing the district court's authority under § 3583(e), commented:
Occasionally, changed circumstances-for instance, exceptionally good behavior by the defendant or a downward turn in the defendant's ability to pay a fine or restitution imposed as conditions of release-will render a previously imposed term or condition of release either too harsh or inappropriately tailored to serve the general punishment goals of section 3553(a).
Id. at 36. According to defendant, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals did not "set out to establish a definitive standard for determining when the conduct of a defendant or interests of justice supported early termination, " and the reliance of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upon this "dicta" from Lussier is "mistaken" and "misplaced." (ECF No. 52, at 6-8.) In Laine, the court of appeals summarily affirmed the district court because the defendant waived his appellate rights as a condition of his plea agreement. Laine, 404 F.Appx. at 572. The court held that enforcing the waiver would not be a "miscarriage of justice" because Laine's compliance with his conditions of release was not exceptional or extraordinary. Id. at 573.
At most, defendant argues, "extraordinary circumstances" is a permissive basis for deciding a motion for early termination, not a controlling standard. (ECF No. 52, at 9); see United States v. Kay, 283 F.Appx. 994 (3d Cir. 2008) ("We need not determine in this case whether [the significantly changed or extraordinary circumstances' standard from Lussier ] is a controlling standard, because it is clear on the present record that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in looking for changed circumstances..."). Defendant asserts that the "only controlling standard" is the one set forth in the statute: whether the court is satisfied, after considering the § 3553(a) factors, that early termination is warranted by the conduct of the defendant and the interests of justice. (ECF No. 52, at 10.)
Laine, as an unpublished decision, is not binding precedent. See 3d Cir. I.O.P. 5.7 (2010) ("The court by tradition does not cite to its not precedential opinions as authority. Such opinions are not regarded as precedents that bind the court because they do not circulate to the full court before filing."); In re Grand Jury Investigation, 445 F.3d 266, 276 (3d Cir. 2006) (" A fortiori, [not precedential opinions] are not precedents for the district courts of this circuit."). Not precedential opinions are, however, "strongly persuasive authority" for district courts. United States v. Barney, 792 F.Supp.2d 725, 729 (D.N.J. 2011).
The court finds, in accord with Laine and numerous decisions in this district, that early termination of supervised release generally should not be granted absent exceptional or extraordinary circumstances. See, e.g., United States v. Cotter, Crim. No. 09-190, 2014 WL 1653106, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 23, 2014); United States v. Sporrer, Crim. No. 09-311, 2014 WL 580919, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 13, 2014); United States v. Jaime, Crim. No. 05-34, 2013 WL 4434909, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 16, 2013). The court does not hold that "exceptional or extraordinary circumstances" is a "controlling standard, " see Kay, 283 F.Appx. at 946, or that such circumstances are required in every case, see Laine, 404 F.Appx. at 573-74 (" Generally ... early termination of supervised release... should occur only when... something exceptional or extraordinary warrants it." (emphasis added) (citation omitted)). The court must still consider the applicable § 3553(a) factors. Ordinarily, however, the § 3553(a) factors and the interest of justice do not support early termination unless the defendant's conduct and circumstances are exceptional. See United ...