United States v. Johnson - Oral Argument - December 08, 1999

United States v. Johnson

Media for United States v. Johnson

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 01, 2000 in United States v. Johnson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1999 in United States v. Johnson

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 98-1696, The United States v. Roy Lee Johnson.

Ms. McDowell.

Barbara B. McDowell:

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

This case concerns when a Federal criminal defendant's term of supervised release begins.

The unambiguous text of 18 U.S.C. 3624(e) provides the answer.

That section states that a defendant's term of supervised release commences on the day he is released from imprisonment.

It further states that a term of supervised release does not run during any period in which the defendant is imprisoned, except for a period of less than 30 days.

That's until a defendant is actually released from prison, his supervised release does not begin.

The statute provides--

Antonin Scalia:

Suppose that you don't have the situation which existed here, where he was wrongfully convicted and serving a term on a wrongful conviction, but suppose that just in violation of his rights the prison keeps him in for 3 years after the... his term of proper conviction had actually expired.

Do you think we'd be obliged to have him serve his term of 3 years' supervised release after those 3 years of wrongful imprisonment had already occurred?

Barbara B. McDowell:

--Yes, Your Honor.

He would have no remedy that's based on his supervised release term that would be automatic.

Antonin Scalia:

Well--

Barbara B. McDowell:

He could, however, move under section 3583 for reduction in his term of supervised release.

Antonin Scalia:

--Which would be discretionary, with approval?

Barbara B. McDowell:

That would be discretionary, yes.

Antonin Scalia:

Well, I... it doesn't seem to me this ought to be discretionary.

Barbara B. McDowell:

That would--

Antonin Scalia:

Why can't we interpret the words, does not run during any period in which the person is imprisoned in connection with a conviction, why can't we interpret that to mean reasonably, properly imprisoned in connection with a conviction?

Barbara B. McDowell:

--Well, that would still be inconsistent with the earlier sentence in that same provision that says the term of supervised release commences on the day the person is released from imprisonment.

That seems to contemplate actual release, not could have been, should have been, or would have been released.

Antonin Scalia:

What is... is there a statute that governs the service of consecutive sentences?

Barbara B. McDowell:

Yes, there is.

There's a statute that provides that for administrative purposes all sentences will be aggregated.

That's section 3584, I believe.

Antonin Scalia:

And all sentences shall be aggregated, what does that mean?

Barbara B. McDowell:

That has the effect of, if one sentence happens to be vacated defendant will automatically receive credit against a subsequent consecutive sentence.

Antonin Scalia:

Suppose the statute didn't read that, and suppose that a person is serving consecutive sentences under a provision either in the statute or in the judicial sentence which says his time for the second conviction shall not begin to run until the service of his time for the first conviction has expired, all right, and then it turns out that the first conviction was improper.

He served 5 years in prison wrongfully.