Lynce v. Mathis

PETITIONER: Lynce
RESPONDENT: Mathis
LOCATION: Camp Newfound Owatonna

DOCKET NO.: 95-7452
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 519 US 433 (1997)
ARGUED: Nov 04, 1996
DECIDED: Feb 19, 1997

ADVOCATES:
Joel T. Remland - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Parker D. Thomson - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Beginning in 1983, the Florida Legislature enacted a series of statutes authorizing the award of early release credits to prison inmates when the state prison population exceeded predetermined levels. In 1986, Kenneth Lynce received a 22-year prison sentence on a charge of attempted murder. In 1992, he was released based on the determination that he had accumulated five different types of early release credits totaling 5,668 days, including 1,860 days of "provisional credits" awarded as a result of prison overcrowding. Lynce was re-arrested and returned to custody shortly thereafter when the attorney general issued an opinion interpreting a 1992 statute as having retroactively canceled all provisional credits awarded to inmates convicted of murder and attempted murder. Lynce filed a habeas corpus petition alleging that the retroactive cancellation of provisional credits violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Federal Constitution. The District Court rejected Lynce's argument dismissing the petition on the ground that the sole purpose of these credits was to alleviate prison overcrowding. The Court of Appeals denied a certificate of probable cause.

Question

Does Florida's 1992 statute canceling early release credits to prison inmates after they have been awarded violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Federal Constitution?

Media for Lynce v. Mathis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 04, 1996 in Lynce v. Mathis

William H. Rehnquist:

The Court will hear argument now in Number 95-7452, Kenneth Lynce v. Hamilton Mathis.

Mr. Remland.

Joel T. Remland:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

Petitioner challenges a 1992 Florida State law which retroactively redefined punishment prescribed for a 1985 offense, in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause.

Petitioner committed his offense in 1985.

He pled nolo contendere and was sentenced in 1986 in accordance with the sentencing formula prescribed by Florida law.

The punishment formula in effect at the time of petitioner's offense and at the time of his sentencing provided that a prisoner's actual term of incarceration was equal to the guidelines sentence imposed by the judge less all gain time awarded.

The State granted petitioner overcrowding gain time credits from 1987 in the form of administrative gain time through 1991 in the form of provisional release credits.

Due to the award of those credits, and pursuant to statutory law, the State established a release date for October 1 of 1992.

As petitioner's mandatory non--

David H. Souter:

Mr. Remland, may I interrupt you for a moment?

Can you tell me whether the figure that the State arrived at in determining what the release date was was calculated under the statute that was in existence at the time of the offense, the '83 statute which is set out on page 27 of the lodging, or whether that figure was calculated under one of the later statutes?

I... in candor, I had assumed that it was calculated under one of the successor statutes, but I want to make sure on that.

Joel T. Remland:

--Yes, sir, Justice Souter.

It was calculated under one of the successor statutes in 1988, the--

David H. Souter:

Okay.

Now, if we to... I'm sorry.

If we were to conclude that under the Ex Post Facto Clause the only statute that should be considered was the one in effect at the time of the offense, I take it the figure that they calculated and the date which they arrived at would have been different.

Joel T. Remland:

--It's hard to say, because the actual statute in effect in 1985, which was 944-598, had not been triggered at that point, and the credits did not start to issue until a successor statute administrative gain time supplanting provisional... supplanting the emergency gain time statute kicked in--

David H. Souter:

So you--

Joel T. Remland:

--and the actual credits could be used, I believe, according to the statutes in effect when the credits were granted, and I would submit to the Court--

David H. Souter:

--Yes, but that may not support an Ex Post Facto argument.

That might support... just assume for the sake of argument here that that might just support a due process claim, which is not what we have before us, and I take it the only thing we can say for sure is that if the calculation were made under the statute as in existence at the time of the offense, we don't know that the number arrived at would have been the same number that was awarded under the later statute.

Joel T. Remland:

--I believe the number would have been the same, for two reasons.

First of all, in 1985 the... Mr. Lynce was offense-eligible.

The petitioner was offense-eligible, and the percentage for the threshold was 98 percent.

The two key criteria was the same.

The formula in 1983 all the way through, until 1992, when the second, harsher, more oppressive formula was enacted, that changed the situation.

But the basic formula was the same from 1983 through 1985.

Antonin Scalia:

Mr. Remland--