United States v. Francis Raia (3rd Cir. April 2020)

The Federal Docket

April 12, 2020

Sentencing/Compassionate Release – The Court held that the defendant had not exhausted his administrative remedies before filing his motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) because he had not waited 30 days for the BOP to respond to his request for such a motion and had not received a final adverse decision.

In an unusual procedural posture (the defendant asked the district court and 3rd circuit for compassionate release while appealing his conviction), the Third Circuit held that it lacked the jurisdiction to decide the defendant’s compassionate release motion since such motions must be addressed to the sentencing court.

The district court had held that the pending appeal had divested it of its jurisdiction to hear the motion, but noted in a footnote that it would have granted the motion due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Third Circuit held that it would retain jurisdiction over the defendant’s appeal while remanding to the district court the defendant’ request for compassionate release.

However, the Court also held that such a remand would be “futile,” because the defendant had not exhausted his administrative remedies under § 3582(c)(1)(A)– he did not have a final adverse decision from the BOP and it had not been 30 days since his request.

PRACTICE NOTE: While this decision is an obstacke to inmates seeking compassionate release, it bears noting that many district courts across the country have secured release for the defendant-inmates by arguing that the exhaustion requirement is a claims-processing rule that can be waived based on futility, inadequate relief, and undue prejudice or irreparable harm.

Appeal from the District of New Jersey

Opinion by Smith, joined by Ambro and Chagares

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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