RESPONDENT: United States
DOCKET NO.: 08-728
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2009-2010)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
CITATION: 559 US 196 (2010)
GRANTED: Apr 20, 2009
ARGUED: Oct 06, 2009
DECIDED: Mar 08, 2010
Matthew D. Roberts - Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the respondent
Mark T. Stancil - on behalf of the petitioner
Facts of the case
Taylor James Bloate was convicted in a Missouri federal district court on counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. In a pretrial motion, Mr. Bloate moved to dismiss arguing that there had been a Speedy Trial Act violation. It was denied. The Act requires that a defendant's trial begin within "70 days after the indictment or the defendant's initial appearance, whichever is later." However, it excludes "any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant." Following his conviction, Mr. Bloate appealed, arguing that his motion to dismiss was improperly denied as the court excluded too many days in its calculation.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed Mr. Bloate's conviction. It recognized that six circuits hold that "pretrial motion preparation may be excluded, if the court specifically grants time for that purpose" and that two do not. Here, the Eighth Circuit sided with the majority in holding that the district court properly excluded days from the time of Mr. Bloate's indictment to his trial and therefore there was no violation to the Speedy Trial Act.
Is time granted to prepare pretrial motions automatically excludable under 18 U.S.C. Section 3161(h)(1)?
Media for Bloate v. United StatesAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 06, 2009 in Bloate v. United States
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 08, 2010 in Bloate v. United States
John G. Roberts, Jr.:
Justice Thomas has our opinion this morning in case number 08-728, Bloate versus United States.
He has asked that I read his announcement.
This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
The petitioner was indicted on August 24, 2007 for federal firearm and drug crimes.
His trial was delayed by various events, including his request for additional pretrial motion preparation time.
The trial eventually began on March 5, 2008, 179 days after petitioner's indictment.
Petitioner moved to dismiss on the ground that pretrial delay exceeded the 70-day limit set forth in the Speedy Trial Act.
The district court denied the motion after determining that the act itself excluded most of the delays from the 70-day deadline.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed.
It's relevant to our decision today the Eighth Circuit held that the additional time granted to petitioner for pretrial motion preparation should be automatically excluded under Section 3161 H1, which directs a district court not to count ?delay resulting from proceedings concerning the defendant."
In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
We hold that pretrial motion preparation time should be considered not under the general language of Section 3161 H1, but under the more specific language of 3161 H1-D, which addresses delay resulting from any pretrial motion and thus governs the pretrial motion related delay at issue in this case.
Because sub paragraph D provides for the automatic exclusion only of delay from the filing of the motion through its conclusion or disposition," preparation time which precedes the beginning of the automatically excludable period is not automatically excludable.
This reading of the statute respects Congress' decision, that the benefits of pretrial motion related delay always outweigh the parties and public's interest in a speedy trial only after the filing of the motion.
It also respects the fact that Congress did authorize the exclusion of pretrial motion related delay falling outside the parameters of sub paragraph D, but only on a case-by-case basis.
Subsection H7 expressly permits a district court to grant a continuance in order to give the defendant adequate and effective preparation time.
The delay caused by such a continuance may be excluded based only on specific written findings by the court.
Subsection H7 thus provides district courts ample means to permit the pretrial motion related delay necessary to fair proceedings without risking dismissal under the act.
Justice Ginsburg has filed a concurring opinion.
Justice Alito has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Breyer joins.