Dolan v US


Petitioner  Dolan pleaded guilty to a federal charge of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He then entered into a plea agreement that stated that restitution may be ordered by the Court. The pre sentence report, provided to the court noted that restitution was required. But, lacking precise information about hospital costs and lost wages, it did not recommend a restitution amount. The  District Court then held petitioner’s  sentencing hearing and sentenced him to 21 months’ imprisonment along with 3 years of supervised release. The judge said that there was insufficient information on the record at that time regarding possible restitution payments that may be owed and that he would leave that matter open, pending the receipt of additional information and petitioner could anticipate that such an award will be made in the future.

The court later entered a judgment, which, among other things, stated:

“Pursuant to the Mandatory Restitution Act, restitution is applicable; however, no information has been received regarding possible restitution payments that may be owed. Therefore, the Court will not order restitution at this time.”

The probation office later prepared an addendum to the presentence report which reflected the views of the parties and the “total amount of restitution” due in the case about $105,000. It  was 67 days after the petitioner’s  sentencing and 23 days before the statute’s 90 days after sentencing deadline would expire.

The sentencing court set a restitution hearing about three months after the 90-day deadline expired. At the hearing, Dolan pointed out that the 90-day deadline had passed and argued that the law no longer authorized the court to order restitution. The court disagreed and ordered restitution. The Court of Appeals affirmed. [571 F. 3d 1022 (CA10 2009)]

The Supreme Court held that in answering this kind of question, the Court has to look to statutory language, to the relevant context, and to what they reveal about the purposes that a time limit is designed to serve. When the statute in question imposes a jurisdictional condition upon, for example, a court’s authority to hear a case, to consider pleadings, or to act upon motions that a party seeks to file, the expiration of a “jurisdictional” deadline prevents the court from permitting or taking the action to which the statute attached the deadline. The prohibition is absolute. The parties cannot waive it, nor can a court extend that deadline for equitable reasons.  But certain deadlines are more ordinary claims-processing rules, i.e. rules that do not limit a court’s jurisdiction, but rather regulate the timing of motions or claims brought before the court. Unless a party points out to the court that another litigant has missed such a deadline, the party forfeits the deadline’s protection. Also in some cases  deadline seeks speed by creating a time-related directive that is legally enforceable but does not deprive a judge or other public official of the power to take the action to which the deadline applies if the deadline is missed.  It  concluded that the fact that a sentencing court misses the statute’s 90-day deadline, even through its own fault or that of the Government, does not deprive the court of the power to order restitution. It held that though the statute here use the word “shall,” §3664(d)(5), yet the statute’s use of that word alone should not be held to interpret statutes to bar judges(or other officials) from taking the action to which a missed statutory deadline refers. Also, the statute’s text places primary weight upon, and emphasize the importance of, imposing restitution upon those convicted of certain federal crimes.

Regarding petitioner’s  argument of the application of  the rule of lenity, it stated that the petitioner had not been able to provide with an example of an instance in which the “rule of lenity” has been applied to a statutory time provision in the criminal context. It further held, even assuming for argument’s sake that the rule might be so applied,  after considering the statute’s text, structure, and purpose,  there was no statutory ambiguity sufficiently “grievous” to warrant its application in the present case. Thus the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit was Affirmed.