Rutledge v. United States

PETITIONER: Rutledge
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Seminole Tribe

DOCKET NO.: 94-8769
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 517 US 292 (1996)
ARGUED: Nov 27, 1995
DECIDED: Mar 27, 1996

ADVOCATES:
Barry Levenstam - Argued the cause for the petitioner
James A. Feldman - Argued the cause for the United States

Facts of the case

Tommy L. Rutledge was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise. The District Court convicted Rutledge on both counts. It sentenced him to life imprisonment without possible release on each count. The sentences were to be served concurrently. The Court of Appeals affirmed. It rejected Rutledge's argument that his convictions and concurrent life sentences punished him twice for the same offense.

Question

Can a criminal be given concurrent life sentences for conspiring to distribute drugs and operating a continuing criminal enterprise?

Media for Rutledge v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 27, 1995 in Rutledge v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 94-8769, Tommy L. Rutledge v. United States.

Mr. Levenstam.

Barry Levenstam:

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

This case presents the question of what limits the Double Jeopardy Clause places upon the punishment to be imposed upon a defendant found guilty of violating 21 U.S.C. section 848, the continuing criminal enterprise statute, and section 846, the drug conspiracy statute, where the same conduct constitutes the conspiracy and the in concert element of section 848.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Is it the Double Jeopardy Clause in the constitutional sense, or simply a concept that's somewhat like Double Jeopardy when we're interpreting congressional intent?

Barry Levenstam:

The Court's analysis has incorporated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution historically.

There have been cases decided without reference to that, and then there have been a number of cases which rely on the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

But do all parties concede, or at least do you agree that if Congress wanted multiple or cumulative punishments set for the two crimes, that they could constitutionally enact a provision that would secure that objective?

Barry Levenstam:

Yes, Your Honor.

Under Missouri v. Hunter and a long line of cases from this Court, that is clearly the case.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

So then we're really talking about what Congress intended, rather than double jeopardy, are we not?

Barry Levenstam:

Well, the... what Congress intended in the multiple punishments context defines the parameters of the double jeopardy protection.

William H. Rehnquist:

Which really means there isn't any constitutional question involved, if Congress can provide whatever it wants, and double jeopardy accordingly recedes whatever Congress has provided.

Barry Levenstam:

Well, double jeopardy does not impose limitations on Congress, it's true.

It's been analyzed to impose limitations upon the courts in imposing Congress' will.

Whether it's actually necessary, given the presence of the Due Process Clause, or even the body of the Constitution, relative authority granted under Article I or Article III, insofar as my client is concerned, he would be as happy to have one of these convictions vacated under any of those rubrics, but historically, looking at the cases, they have analyzed these situations under the double Jeopardy Clause.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But then if we're concerned with Congress' intent--

Barry Levenstam:

Yes.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--as you agree, then why would Congress intend to put the prosecutor at risk of having no conviction... let's say the CCE conviction gets wiped out on appeal... if the conspiracy conviction has not been entered?

Why would we attribute such a will to Congress?

Barry Levenstam:

I don't think you should attribute such a will to Congress, and I don't believe that that is what would happen.

Our suggestion as to what should happen in a situation, it's clear under this Court's decision in Ball that the prosecutor is entitled to charge both, to present evidence as to both, to put both before the jury, and the Court is entitled to accept a verdict back from the jury with respect to both.

If the jury comes back and enters guilty verdicts with respect to both, our position is that it would be incumbent upon the district court to enter a vacatur with respect to one or the other in that court's discretion, and then when the entire case goes up on appeal, and we would assume that the defendant, having been found guilty, would take an appeal, both the guilty verdict, the judgment entered upon the conviction... for instance, the CCE... and the vacatur that the district court entered on the conspiracy would be before the appellate court.

It would be incumbent upon the defendant to argue with respect to both of those counts everything that he has, because the appellate court, having jurisdiction over the entire case and all the orders therein because the appeal is from a final appeal, if it determined that the CCE count should be reversed based on some element of CCE or some aspect of the case pertaining to an element that distinguishes it from the underlying conspiracy, the appellate court would have the authority to reverse the vacatur on double jeopardy grounds at the same time.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

How would that work if there is no judgment entered on the conspiracy count?

Barry Levenstam:

Well, there would be a final judgment entered in the case, and in the line on the judgment form it would say, jury verdict vacated with respect to the conspiracy, and then the court, the appellate court could simply reverse the vacation of that, and remand to the district court.

William H. Rehnquist:

The Government would have to appeal that, though, to get the vacatur reversed, wouldn't it?

I mean, the defendant isn't going to say, reverse the vacatur.

Barry Levenstam:

Well, the defendant won't say that.

It's my understanding that a final appeal, because all orders merge in the final judgment order, the court would have the authority to--