Spencer v. Kemna

LOCATION: Randon Bragdon's Dental Office

DOCKET NO.: 96-7171
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 523 US 1 (1998)
ARGUED: Nov 12, 1997
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1998

James R. Layton - Argued the cause for the respondents
John W. Simon - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

In 1990, Randy G. Spencer began serving concurrent three-year sentences for convictions of felony stealing and burglary. In 1992, Spencer was released, but later that year his parole was revoked and he was returned to prison. Seeking to invalidate his parole revocation, Spencer filed unsuccessful habeas petitions in state court. Spencer then filed a federal habeas petition, alleging that he had not received due process in the parole revocation proceedings. In 1993, Spencer was re-released on parole before the District Court addressed the merits of his habeas petition. Subsequently, the court dismissed Spencer's petition as moot. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


May prison inmates challenge the revocation of their parole after they are re-released on parole?

Media for Spencer v. Kemna

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 12, 1997 in Spencer v. Kemna

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 96-7171, Randy G. Spencer v. Mike Kemna.

Mr. Simon.

John W. Simon:

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

In September 1992 the State of Missouri revoked Randy Spencer's parole on the basis of the Board of Probation and Parole's finding that he had committed forcible rape, armed criminal action, and possession of crack cocaine.

After exhausting his State remedies, Spencer filed a Federal habeas corpus action asserting Federal constitutional violations concerning this revocation which would, if recognized, have required the court to hold it invalid.

About 4 months after Spencer filed his petition, the State released him on parole again for good behavior, but without expunging the order of revocation or abandoning its finding that he was guilty of these three serious felonies.

Nearly 2-1/2 years after he filed his petition, the district court dismissed it as moot.

In conflict with the decisions of every other United States court of appeals that had then issued a published opinion dealing with the subject, the court below affirmed the district court's dismissal.

An official governmental finding that one is guilty of forcible rape, armed criminal action, and possession of crack cocaine has collateral consequences like those of a criminal conviction per se.

Stephen G. Breyer:

It does?

I thought that if you're convicted of a crime, A, then under the guidelines in many States when you're convicted of crime B your sentence automatically goes up, and I thought that wasn't true here, that if your parole is revoked there is no guideline or statute that says you get an increased sentence because of a parole revocation, though of course they could give you an increased sentence on the basis of that for which the parole was revoked.

John W. Simon:

Justice Breyer--

Stephen G. Breyer:

Am I wrong, because... yes.

John W. Simon:

--Justice Breyer, I've two responses to that.

The first is that although it is not automatic in the case, it is not automatic that under the guidelines you would get it... you would get a higher sentence solely on the basis of the parole revocation, the parole revocation can force one's offense into the 15-year window--

Stephen G. Breyer:

I thought... am I not... what I was saying is, I thought that that which does it is not the parole revocation, it is that for which the parole was revoked.

In other words, the defendant would always have a chance to say, but I didn't do this thing, I didn't commit... I didn't do that for which, and then the parole board or whoever, the court would consider, did he do it or didn't he do it.

You can't do that if you're convicted of a crime.

I just want to know if I'm right.

Is that right or not?

John W. Simon:

--I agree with--

Stephen G. Breyer:

Tell me if I'm--

John W. Simon:

--I agree with what you're saying, Justice Breyer, but in Sibron this Court... this Court considered that question in respect to criminal convictions--

Stephen G. Breyer:

--All right, but I mean, the first part was, is that right, and then if I'm right, then why... then you're going to explain why it doesn't matter.

Go ahead.

John W. Simon:

--Well... yes.

Thank you, Your Honor.

You are right.

You are right in that the parole revocation does not have exactly the same effect under the Sentencing Guidelines as a criminal conviction.

However, to put the burden on the petitioner and then defendant in the... under the guidelines of impeaching the parole revocation years after the fact has the same things wrong with it that it would have in the Sibron situation, where this Court said that we shouldn't require people to come in years after the fact when they have proceeded to litigate the claims under the rules as Sibron and Randy Spencer have done.