United States v. Laschell Harris (11th Cir. February 2021)

The Federal Docket

March 4, 2021

Sentencing Reductions/Compassionate Release – The exhaustion requirement under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A) is a non-jurisdictional, mandatory claims-processing rule.

The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s compassionate release motion based on her risk of severe illness from COVID-19 while incarcerated. Sua sponte, the Court considered whether the defendant had complied with the exhaustion requirement under 3582(c)(1)(A), which requires that a defendant exhaust their adminsitrative remedies through the BOP or wait 30 days after sending a request for release to the warden of their facility.

The Court concluded that the exhaustion requirement is not jurisdictional, but is rather mandatory claims-processing rule that the government can waive. Addressing the merits, the Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion where the defendant only had a medical condition that “might” increase his risk of severe illness from COVID-19, per the CDC’s guidelines,

The Court noted in a footnote that several other circuits have held that district courts have independent discretion to define “extraordinary and compelling reasons” because the U.S. Sentencing Commission has not set forth an “applicable policy statement” for the amended compassionate release statute. The Court noted that the district court had denied the motion under the old policy statement under 1B1.13 but also based on exercising its own discretion and concluded that the Court “need not” reach the issue of whether district courts are required to consider 1B1.13.

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida
Opinion by E. Carnes, joined by Jordan and Grant

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.

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