Certiorari To The Colorado Supreme Court

No. 15-1256. Argued January 9, 2017--Decided April 19, 2017

Petitioner Shannon Nelson was convicted by a Colorado jury of two felonies and three misdemeanors arising from the alleged sexual and physical abuse of her four children. The trial court imposed a prison term of 20 years to life and ordered her to pay $8,192.50 in court costs, fees, and restitution. On appeal, Nelson’s conviction was reversed for trial error, and on retrial, she was acquitted of all charges.

Petitioner Louis Alonzo Madden was convicted by a Colorado jury of attempting to patronize a prostituted child and attempted sexual assault. The trial court imposed an indeterminate prison sentence and ordered him to pay $4,413.00 in costs, fees, and restitution. After one of Madden’s convictions was reversed on direct review and the other vacated on postconviction review, the State elected not to appeal or retry the case.

The Colorado Department of Corrections withheld $702.10 from Nelson’s inmate account between her conviction and acquittal, and Madden paid the State $1,977.75 after his conviction. In both cases, the funds were allocated to costs, fees, and restitution. Once their convictions were invalidated, both petitioners moved for return of the funds. Nelson’s trial court denied her motion outright, and Madden’s postconviction court allowed a refund of costs and fees, but not restitution. The Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that both petitioners were entitled to seek refunds of all they had paid, but the Colorado Supreme Court reversed. It reasoned that Colorado’s Compensation for Certain Exonerated Persons statute (Exoneration Act or Act), Colo. Rev. Stat. 13–65–101, 13–65–102, 13–65–103, provided the exclusive authority for refunds and that, because neither Nelson nor Madden had filed a claim under that Act, the courts lacked authority to order refunds. The Colorado Supreme Court also held that there was no due process problem under the Act, which permits Colorado to retain conviction-related assessments unless and until the prevailing defendant institutes a discrete civil proceeding and proves her innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

Held: The Exoneration Act’s scheme does not comport with the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. Pp. 5–11.

(a) The procedural due process inspection required by Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U. S. 319, governs these cases. Medina v. California, 505 U. S. 437, controls when state procedural rules that are part of the criminal process are at issue. These cases, in contrast, concern the continuing deprivation of property after a conviction has been reversed or vacated, with no prospect of reprosecution. Pp. 5–6.

(b) The three considerations balanced under Mathews—the private interest affected; the risk of erroneous deprivation of that interest through the procedures used; and the governmental interest at stake—weigh decisively against Colorado’s scheme. Pp. 6–10.

(1) Nelson and Madden have an obvious interest in regaining the money they paid to Colorado. The State may not retain these funds simply because Nelson’s and Madden’s convictions were in place when the funds were taken, for once those convictions were erased, the presumption of innocence was restored. See, e.g., Johnson v. Mississippi, 486 U. S. 578. And Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions. Pp. 6–8.

(2) Colorado’s scheme creates an unacceptable risk of the erroneous deprivation of defendants’ property. The Exoneration Act conditions refund on defendants’ proof of innocence by clear and convincing evidence, but defendants in petitioners’ position are presumed innocent. Moreover, the Act provides no remedy for assessments tied to invalid misdemeanor convictions. And when, as here, the recoupment amount sought is not large, the cost of mounting a claim under the Act and retaining counsel to pursue it would be prohibitive.

Colorado argues that an Act that provides sufficient process to compensate a defendant for the loss of her liberty must suffice to compensate a defendant for the lesser deprivation of money. But Nelson and Madden seek the return of their property, not compensation for its temporary deprivation. Just as restoration of liberty on reversal of a conviction is not compensation, neither is the return of money taken by the State on account of the conviction. Other procedures cited by Colorado—the need for probable cause to support criminal charges, the jury-trial right, and the State’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—do not address the risk faced by a defendant whose conviction has been overturned that she will not recover funds taken from her based solely on a conviction no longer valid. Pp. 8–10.

(3) Colorado has no interest in withholding from Nelson and Madden money to which the State currently has zero claim of right. The State has identified no equitable considerations favoring its position, nor indicated any way in which the Exoneration Act embodies such considerations. P. 10.

362 P. 3d 1070 (first judgment) and 364 P. 3d 866 (second judgment), reversed and remanded.

Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Eleventh Circuit

No. 15-7250. Argued October 11, 2016--Decided April 19, 2017

After federal agents found child pornography on petitioner’s computer, he pleaded guilty to possessing a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, in violation of 18 U. S. C. 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2), an offense requiring a district court to “make restitution to the victim of the offense,” 3663A(a)(1). The District Court entered an initial judgment sentencing petitioner to a term of imprisonment. It also acknowledged that restitution was mandatory but deferred determination of the restitution amount. Petitioner filed a notice of appeal from this initial judgment. Months later, the District Court entered an amended judgment, ordering petitioner to pay restitution to one of his victims. Petitioner did not file a second notice of appeal from the amended judgment. When he nonetheless challenged the restitution amount before the Eleventh Circuit, the Government argued that he had forfeited his right to do so by failing to file a second notice of appeal. The Eleventh Circuit agreed, holding that petitioner could not challenge the restitution amount.

Held: A defendant wishing to appeal an order imposing restitution in a deferred restitution case must file a notice of appeal from that order. If he fails to do so and the Government objects, he may not challenge the restitution order on appeal. Pp. 3–9.

(a) Both 18 U. S. C. 3742(a), which governs criminal appeals, and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(a)(1) contemplate that a defendant will file a notice of appeal after the district court has decided the issue sought to be appealed. Here, petitioner filed only one notice of appeal, which preceded by many months the sentence and judgment imposing restitution. He therefore failed to properly appeal the amended judgment. Whether or not the requirement that a defendant file a timely notice of appeal from an amended judgment imposing restitution is a jurisdictional prerequisite, it is at least a mandatory claim-processing rule, which is “unalterable” if raised properly by the party asserting a violation of the rule. Eberhart v. United States, 546 U. S. 12. Because the Government timely raised the issue, “the court’s duty to dismiss the appeal was mandatory.” Id., at 18. Pp. 3–5.

(b) Petitioner’s argument that his single notice of appeal sufficed under the Federal Rules to appeal both judgments depends on two premises: First, in a deferred restitution case, there is only one “judgment,” as that term is used in Rules 4(b)(1) and (b)(2); and second, so long as a notice of appeal is filed after the initial judgment, it “springs forward” under Rule 4(b)(2) to appeal the amended judgment imposing restitution. Each premise is rejected. Pp. 5–7.

(1) This Court’s analysis in Dolan v. United States, 560 U. S. 605, makes clear that deferred restitution cases involve two appealable judgments, not one. The Dolan Court did not decide the question presented here, but the Court was not persuaded by the argument that “a sentencing judgment is not ‘final’ until it contains a definitive determination of the amount of restitution.” Id., at 617–618. Instead, the Court recognized, “strong arguments” supported the proposition that both the initial judgment and the restitution order were each immediately appealable final judgments. Ibid. Pp. 5–6.

(2) Because petitioner’s notice of appeal was filed well before the District Court announced the sentence imposing restitution, the notice of appeal did not “spring forward” to become effective on the date the court entered its amended restitution judgment. By its own terms, Rule 4(b)(2) applies only to a notice of appeal filed after a sentence has been announced and before the judgment imposing the sentence is entered on the docket. Even if the District Court’s acknowledgment in the initial judgment that restitution was mandatory could qualify as a “sentence” that the District Court “announced” under Rule 4(b)(2), petitioner has never disputed that restitution is mandatory for his offense. Rather, he argued on appeal that the amount imposed is unlawful. Pp. 6–7.

(c) Petitioner’s alternative argument that any defect in his notice of appeal should be overlooked as harmless error is rejected. Lemke v. United States, 346 U. S. 325, on which he relies, has been superseded by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure in two ways. First, the Lemke petitioner’s notice of appeal would now be timely under Rule 4(b)(2). Petitioner in this case cannot take advantage of that Rule. Second, Rule 3(a)(2) now provides the consequences for litigant errors associated with filing a notice of appeal. The court of appeals may, in its discretion, overlook defects in a notice of appeal other than the failure to timely file a notice. It may not overlook the failure to file a notice of appeal at all. Pp. 8–9.

618 Fed. Appx. 579, affirmed.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Sotomayor, J., joined. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.