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United States v. Rodriguez

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

April 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ, Appellant

          Argued: January 25, 2017

         ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. No. 1-10-cr-00005-001) District Judge: Honorable Christopher C. Conner

          James V. Wade Ronald A. Krauss [ARGUED] Office of Federal Public Defender Counsel for Appellant

          Bruce D. Brandler Scott R. Ford Carlo D. Marchioli [ARGUED] United States Attorney's Office Middle District of Pennsylvania Counsel for Appellee

          Before: CHAGARES, RESTREPO [*] and ROTH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          RESTREPO, Circuit Judge.

         Appellant Jose Rodriguez appeals as substantively unreasonable the District Court's discretionary denial of his motion for a sentencing reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). While this would ordinarily be a routine appeal, it is not here because the Government raises a novel challenge to our appellate jurisdiction. The Government contends that we lack jurisdiction to consider whether a ruling on a Section 3582(c)(2) motion was substantively unreasonable. We conclude that we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We will affirm.

         I

         In 2012, Rodriguez pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 846, and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, 18 U.S.C. § 924(o). The drug quantity was more than 15 and less than 50 kilograms of cocaine. Rodriguez was also responsible for multiple drug-related robberies. His sentencing range was 120-150 months. The District Court ultimately sentenced Rodriguez to 123 months' imprisonment and 3 years' supervised release.

         In 2016, Rodriguez filed a motion for a sentencing reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The basis for the motion was Amendment 782 of the Sentencing Guidelines. Amendment 782 reduced by two the offense levels in Section 2D1.1 for drug quantities that trigger a mandatory minimum sentence. U.S.S.G. Supp. App. C, Amend. 782. Amendment 782 is retroactive, provided that any reduction take effect on or after November 1, 2015. U.S.S.G. Supp. App. C, Amend. 788; U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(d); U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10, cmt. n.6.[1]

         The District Court found Rodriguez eligible for an Amendment 782 sentencing reduction, but denied relief in the exercise of its discretion. The District Court found that Rodriguez had engaged in "an unyielding and escalating pattern of drug-related and violent behavior which has been undeterred by prior and substantial terms of imprisonment." App. 12. Rodriguez now appeals. He asserts that his unmodified sentence is substantively unreasonable, based upon the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and his post-sentencing conduct.

         II

         The District Court had jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231. United States v. Styer, 573 F.3d 151, 153 n.2 (3d Cir. 2009). We have jurisdiction to address our own jurisdiction. United States v. United Mine Workers of Am., 330 U.S. 258, 291 (1947). We hold that we have jurisdiction over the merits of this appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, as explained below. Styer, 573 F.3d at 153 n.2.[2] We review the District Court's decision to deny Rodriguez's sentencing reduction motion for abuse of discretion. United States v. Thompson, 825 F.3d 198, 203 (3d Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).

         III

          This case involves a motion for a sentencing reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Section 3582(c)(2) is an "exception to the general rule of finality" over sentencing judgments, set forth at 18 U.S.C. § 3582(b). Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 824 (2010). Section 3582(c)(2) applies to amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines. It provides that a district court may reduce a sentence if two conditions are met: (1) the defendant was sentenced "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission" and (2) "a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); see also United States v. Flemming, 617 F.3d 252, 257 (3d Cir. 2010).

         The "policy statement[]" referenced in Section 3582(c)(2) is Section 1B1.10 of the Sentencing Guidelines. See Dillon, 560 U.S. at 827. Section 1B1.10, in turn, contains its own, more specific requirements for a sentencing reduction. Under Section 1B1.10, the amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines must be retroactive. U.S.S.G. § 1B.1.10(a)(2)(A), (d). It must also "have the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable guideline range, " based upon a prescribed method of calculation. U.S.S.G. § 1B.1.10(a)(2)(B).

         If these eligibility requirements are met, a district court has the discretion to grant a sentencing reduction "after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); see also Flemming, 617 F.3d at 257. In addition, a district court "shall consider the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community" and "may consider post- sentencing conduct ...


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