United States v. Jon Julian Cabral (10th Cir. June 2019)

The Federal Docket

August 25, 2019

Supervised Release – The Court cannot delegate its judicial authority to a probation officer, through a standard condition of supervised release, to determine whether the defendant poses a risk to third parties and then require the defendant to notify those third parties.

The defendant challenged a “Standard Condition” of his supervised release which allows a probation officer to require a defendant to notify third parties if the probation officer determines a defendant “poses a risk to them.” The defendant argued that this was unconstitutionally vague and an impermissibly delegation of judicial power to a probation officer.

The Court held that the vagueness issue was not ripe since there was no facts indicating “how (or even whether) the probation officer would choose to enforce the risk-notification condition,” therefore making it impossible to determine whether the condition is vague as applied.

The Court held that the improper-delegation issue was ripe, however, since it presented a “legal question that can be easily resolved without additional factual development.” The delegation of judicial power was “already-realized” when the judge tasked the probation officer with determining the defendant’s risk without providing any meaningful direction. The Court also explained how this open-ended delegation could lead to violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights since a defendant could be ordered by his probation officer to notify his workers, friends, and family that he poses a risk to them, based on conduct beyond his conviction.

The Court noted in a footnote that its decision in United States v. Hull, 893 F.3d 1221 (10th Cir. 2018) does not foreclose a vagueness challenge to the Standard Condition in question, once such an issue is ripe for adjudication.

Appeal from the District of Colorado

Opinion by McHugh, joined by Lucero and Bacharach

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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