Ortega-Rodriguez v. United States

PETITIONER: Ortega-Rodriguez
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Safeway grocery store

DOCKET NO.: 91-7749
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 507 US 234 (1993)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1992
DECIDED: Mar 08, 1993

Amy L. Wax - on behalf of the Respondent
James Robert Gailey - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Ortega-Rodriguez v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1992 in Ortega-Rodriguez v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 91-7749, Jose Antonio Ortega-Rodriguez v. United States.

Mr. Gailey, you may proceed.

James Robert Gailey:

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

The Government and the petitioner now agree that a former, fugitive from sentencing does not, automatically forfeit his right to challenge his conviction on appeal.

The only issue left for this Court to decide is whether the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit abused its discretion in denying petitioner his access to appeal.

We say it did, for three reasons: one, there was no prejudice--

William H. Rehnquist:

Well... Mr. Gailey... let me find out about what you and the Government... you say... agree to here.

You... you both agree that the right to appeal may be forfeited if there is a case-by-case analysis, so to speak?

James Robert Gailey:

--Yes, Your Honor, we do agree that undertaking a case-by-case analysis, in the proper case, may result in a dismissal of an appeal.

This is through the court's inherent powers to regulate its own affairs.

We do not believe that the... the automatic rule, as the Eleventh Circuit employs, is a proper exercise of those supervisory powers, and consequently, in this case it was an abuse of discretion not to have allowed the appeal to go forward.

The three reasons why we believe--

Antonin Scalia:

While you are there, what if that automatic rule would be bad; but a lesser automatic rule would have been okay, an automatic rule involving fewer situations would have been okay... and this situation comes within that lesser category?

What would be the situation then?

James Robert Gailey:

--I do... I do not believe, Justice Scalia, that the court, in exercising its supervisory powers can have any automatic rule.

Congress has conferred jurisdiction upon the appellate courts to hear such appeals.

The court, in exercising its supervisory powers... that is, powers that are necessary for the courts to function... have, from time to time... and including cases in front of this Court... have dismissed appeals.

So it is the petitioner's--

Antonin Scalia:

Cannot have any precedent... precedential decisions, then, can't say, you know, whenever fact A, B, and C is present, you lose.

You can't do that?

That's just ordinary precedent.

I thought everything we do is governed by precedent.

James Robert Gailey:

--Your Honor, that is ordinary precedent.

The problem that petitioner has with that approach to the problem, though, is that Congress has conferred the jurisdiction... not the courts.

The courts cannot limit their own jurisdiction but for an exercise of these inherent powers that the courts have.

Antonin Scalia:

They have to reinvent the wheel every time a case comes... I mean, the judge can't say, gee, we had a case just like this 2 weeks ago, and there we held factors A, B, and C being present, you're out.

But we have to rethink it again this time.

They really have to do that?

James Robert Gailey:

Yes, and the reason why is that Congress conferred the jurisdiction.

Congress can limit it... as this Court, faced with a Texas legislative decision in Estelle v. Dorrough, where the Texas legislature limited the legislatively granted right to appeal.