United States v. Harris (3rd Cir. July 2020), UNPUBLISHED

The Federal Docket

July 24, 2020

Sentencing – A warden’s denial of an inmate’s request for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A) does not require the inmate to exhaust his administrative remedies before he can file a motion for release directly with the court. An inmate may file a motion directly with the court after 30 days have elapsed from the warden’s receipt of his request, regardless of the warden’s response.

Harris filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2241, which the district court construed as a motion for compassionate release under 18 USC 3582(c). The court denied the motion based on Harris’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies and because 30 days had not elapsed from the warden’s response.

Harris filed a motion for reconsideration after the warden denied his request. The government argued, and the district court agreed, that the warden’s denial within 30 days meant that Harris had to fully exhaust his administrative remedies through the BOP before he could file a motion for compassionate release with the court. On appeal, the government conceded that its previous arguments were in error, and the Court of Appeals agreed.

The Court concluded that an inmate may bring a motion directly to the court either after exhausting his administrative remedies or after 30 days elapse from the warden’s receipt of the request for compassionate release, whichever is earlier and regardless of the warden’s response. The Court remanded for the district court to proceed on the merits.

Appeal from the Western District of Pennsylvania

Per Curiam opinion by Shwartz, Restrepo, and Greenberg

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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