United States v. Gregory Sanford (7th Cir. January 2021)

The Federal Docket

February 1, 2021

Sentencing/Compassionate Release – The Seventh Circuit held that the exhaustion requirement under 3582(c)(1)(A) is a mandatory claims-processing rule that courts cannot waive.

Gregory Sanford appealed the district court’s denial of his motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A), which was based on his risk of contracting COVID-19 while incarcerated.

The district court denied the motion on the merits without deciding whether Sanford had satisfied the exhaustion requirement. On appeal, the Government argued that Sanford had failed to satisfy the exhaustion requirement and that the district court could not waive the requirement.

The Seventh Circuit agreed. While holding that the exhaustion requirement under 3582(c)(1)(A) is not a jurisdictional requirement, the Court joined the three other federal circuits (the 5th, 6th, and 3rd circuits) that have held the requirement is a “mandatory claim-processing rule” that must be enforced when the Government invokes it.

Accordingly, to get to the merits of a motion brought under 3582(c)(1)(A), a defendant must either submit a request for compassionate to the warden of his facility and wait 30 days, fully exhaust his administrative remedies by appealing the warden’s decision, or the Government may waive the rule.

Appeal from the Central District of Illinois
Opinion by Sykes, joined by Rovner and Brennan

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

Scroll to Top