Barber v. Thomas - Oral Argument - March 30, 2010

Barber v. Thomas

Media for Barber v. Thomas

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 07, 2010 in Barber v. Thomas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 2010 in Barber v. Thomas

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in case 09-5201, Barber v. Thomas, the Warden.

Mr. Sady.

Stephen R. Sady:

Mr. -- Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The phrase "term of imprisonment" appears three times in the first sentence of the Federal good time statute.

The first two times the parties are in agreement.

"Term of imprisonment" means "sentence imposed".

The third use, which sets the rate for good time credit, also means the "sentence imposed" when it's used in the phrase

"up to 54 days of good time credit towards the service of the sentence. "

Antonin Scalia:

But it doesn't always mean that.

I think you say somewhere in your brief that it always means that.

It surely does not always mean that.

Because in -- what is it, 3624 -- wait a minute, now.

3624(d) says that,

"Upon the release of a prisoner on the expiration of his term of imprisonment, the Bureau of Prisons shall give him clothes, money and transportation. "

Now there the expiration of his term of imprisonment does not mean the -- the assigned term of imprisonment.

It means the assigned term of imprisonment less all the good time credits he has had.

Stephen R. Sady:

Exactly.

Antonin Scalia:

Unless you think they are supposed to give him his clothes, you know, several months after he leaves.

Stephen R. Sady:

Your Honor, that is a perfect use of "term of imprisonment" to mean actual time and any good time credits earned.

Antonin Scalia:

Right.

Stephen R. Sady:

And it uses the term "release".

3624(a), which says that you are released when you have your actual time served and any good time.

The flaw in the Bureau of Prisons system is that they do not give credit towards the term of imprisonment as this statute in 3624(b) dictates.

Antonin Scalia:

I'm not addressing that.

All I'm -- look, it -- the text says

"upon the release of a prisoner on the expiration of his term of imprisonment. "

My only point is that that -- you have to acknowledge that that is a use of the phrase "term of imprisonment" that does not mean the sentence he was given, but rather means the sentence that he served.

Stephen R. Sady:

I respectfully disagree because it expires.

A term of imprisonment, a ten-year sentence, expires.

When you have 311 days 10 times, that means it has expired, because you also are giving those 54 days of good time credits 10 times.