Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Court has jurisdiction to review substantive reasonableness of Section 3582 denial

United States v. Jose Angel Rodriguez, No. 16-3232,  2017 WL 1526279 (3d Cir. Apr. 28, 2017), as amended (May 1, 2017). 

          Rodriguez appealed denial of a motion sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).  In response, the government challenged the Court’s jurisdiction to consider whether a 3582(c)(2) motion was substantively unreasonable. The Court concluded that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

          Although Rodriguez was eligible for a reduced sentence, the district court denied his motion for sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(2), based on his “unyielding and escalating pattern of drug-related and violent behavior.”  Rodriguez appealed, arguing that his unmodified sentence was substantively unreasonable.  The government countered that the Circuit lacked jurisdiction over his claim that of substantive unreasonableness.

          The Court found first that it has jurisdiction over the district court's order under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, which provides “jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts.” 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The court next turned to determine whether 18 U.S.C. § 3742, a narrower sentencing jurisdiction statute, limits the Court’s jurisdiction.  Section 3742(a) provides that a defendant may appeal “an otherwise final sentence” under enumerated circumstances; one being if the sentence was “imposed in violation of law.”  While § 1291 jurisdiction may be limited in some cases by § 3742, that was not the case here as an unreasonable sentence is “imposed in violation of law” under 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a)(1). (citing cases). 

          The Court rejected the government’s reliance on the Court’s lack of jurisdiction to review discretionary denials of a downward departures. “As to a downward departure, Sections 3742(a) and (b) reflect Congress's intent to foreclose review of a sentencing court's decision not to depart under the relevant Guidelines. (citation omitted).  But in enacting § 3742, Congress could not have foreseen the Guidelines becoming advisory. 

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