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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Chattanooga, Tennessee, argued the cause for petitioner)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for respondent)
Facts of the Case 

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 replaced most forms of parole with supervised release. If release conditions are violated, the sentencing court may revoke the release and order the violator to serve part or all of the release term in prison without credit for time previously served on release. In 1994, Cornell Johnson was convicted of conspiring to produce and use counterfeit credit cards. Johnson was sentenced to imprisonment followed by a term of supervised release. While on supervised release, Johnson violated its terms. Subsequently, the District Court revoked Johnson's release and ordered him to serve an 18-month prison term to be followed by an additional 12 months of supervised release. The court cited no authority for ordering the new supervised release. The court could have cited a subsection added to the Act in 1994, 18 USC section 3583(h), which explicitly gave it the authority to add the new term; however, Congress made the amendment after Johnson's conviction. On appeal, Johnson argued that the application of the federal law established after his conviction violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's decision.


May a district court, under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, impose an additional term of supervised release following the reimprisonment of those who violate the conditions of an initial term of supervised release, without violating the Ex Post Facto Clause?

Decision: 8 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 18 U.S.C. 3583

Yes. In an 8-1 opinion delivered by Justice David H. Souter, the Court held that 18 USC section 3583(h) is not retroactively applicable; however, its prior version, 18 USC section 3583(e)(3), authorizes a Federal District Court to impose additional term of supervised release after revocation of initial term and reimprisonment. Thus, Johnson's judgment was affirmed because the federal sentencing statute, which was in effect at the time of his original offense, permitted the imposition of supervised release following recommitment. Justice Souter wrote for the Court that "[p]re-Guidelines practice, linguistic continuity from the old scheme to the current one, and the obvious thrust of congressional sentencing policy confirm that, in applying the law as before the enactment of subsection (h), district courts have the authority to order terms of supervised release following reimprisonment." Justice Antonin Scalia dissented.

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JOHNSON v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
JOHNSON v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"JOHNSON v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,