LOCATION: Hardwick's Apartment
DOCKET NO.: 84-1023
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 474 US 231 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 09, 1985
DECIDED: Dec 16, 1985
Judy Clare Clarke - on behalf of the respondent (Appointed by this Court)
Patty Merkamp Stemler - on behalf of the petitioner
Facts of the case
Media for United States v. Rojas-Contreras
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1985 in United States v. Rojas-Contreras
Warren E. Burger:
Mrs. Stemler, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Patty Merkamp Stemler:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
The first question presented in this case is whether the Speedy Trial Act guarantees a defendant a new 30 day preparation period following the return of a superseding indictment that merely corrects a clerical or typographical error.
The second question is one of remedy and need only be reached if the first question is decided adversely to the government, that is, whether the harmless error rule applies to violations of the defense preparation provision, Section 3161(c)(2).
Respondent is a Mexican national.
On February 18, 1983, an indictment... an indictment returned charged the Respondent in two counts with felony illegal entry and re-entry by a deported alien.
The felony illegal entry charge required proof of a prior illegal entry conviction.
The indictment alleged that judgment had been entered on that prior conviction on or about December 17, 1981.
That date was a typographical error.
In fact, the prior conviction had occurred on December 7, 1981.
Approximately one month after the indictment was returned, Respondent was provided with discovery that disclosed the correct date of the prior conviction, and approximately one month after that a superseding indictment was returned that corrected the typographical error in the original indictment.
In all other respects, the original indictment and the superseding indictment were the same.
At Respondent's arraignment on the superseding indictment, he demanded a 30 day postponement of trial.
He claimed that (c)(2), as construed by the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Arkus, guaranteed him a new preparation period after the superseding indictment was returned.
He did not claim that he was either surprised or prejudiced in any way by the correction of the typographical error.
Rather, he claimed that he needed more time to prepare for trial for two totally unrelated reasons.
One was that he wanted to consult fingerprint expert, and the second was that he wanted to review his immigration file.
Review of the immigration file was needed to defend the re-entry charge in Count 2.
Rather than postpone trial, the government agreed to dismiss Count 2, the re-entry charge, and Respondent himself obviated the need for a fingerprint expert by stipulating at trial that he was in fact the same person who had been convicted of illegal entry on December 7, 1981.
Harry A. Blackmun:
Mrs. Stemler, do you think the case is moot?
Patty Merkamp Stemler:
Do I think the case is moot?
No, I do not because he has served his sentence.
If... no, I do not.
I think under this Court's decisions in Cibron and Karafas, and also under the Ball decision, that the government still has an interest in re-instating Respondent's conviction.
If he is ever... if he faces any further prosecutions, the... his criminal record will come into play at sentencing.
It may influence the sentence that he receives.
It can also influence parole eligibility, the number of prior convictions he has.
And therefore, the government has an interest in seeing that the conviction is reinstated in this case.
The District Court denied Respondent's motion for a continuance, holding that (c)(2) did not apply to the superseding indictment in this case.
The Court further found that Respondent would not be prejudiced by proceeding to trial the next day as scheduled.