UNITED STATES v. TINKLENBERG
Following a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Jason Louis Tinklenberg was convicted of possessing firearms after having been convicted of a felony and possessing materials used to manufacture methamphetamine. He was sentenced to 33 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
Before trial, the district court had denied Tinklenberg’s motion to dismiss the indictment for a violation of the STA. On appeal following Tinklenberg’s conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the trial court had indeed violated the act and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the indictment with prejudice.
Is the time between the filing of a pretrial motion and its disposition automatically excluded from the deadline for commencing trial under the Speedy Trial Act?
Legal provision: Speedy Trial Act of 1974
Yes. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court order in an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer. The Speedy Trial Act "contains no requirement that the filing of a pretrial motion actually caused, or was expected to cause, delay of a trial," Breyer wrote for the unanimous court. Justice Antonin Scalia filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment in which Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas joined. Justice Elena Kagan took no part in consideration of the case. " I agree with the judgment of the Court in Part II that a pretrial motion need not actually postpone a trial, or create an expectation of postponement, in order for its pendency to be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act…. But I think that conclusion is entirely clear from the text of the Speedy Trial Act, and see no need to look beyond the text," Scalia argued.
Opinion of the Court
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SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES, PETITIONER v. JASON LOUIS
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
[May 26, 2011]
JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 18 U. S. C. §3161 et seq., provides that in “any case in which a plea of not guilty is entered, the trial . . . shall commence within seventy days” from the later of (1) the “filing date” of the information or indictment or (2) the defendant’s initial appearance before a judicial officer (i.e., the arraignment). §3161(c)(1). The Act goes on to list a set of exclusions from the 70-day period, including “delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion.” §3161(h)(1)(D) (2006 ed., Supp. III) (emphasis added).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held in this case that a pretrial motion falls within this exclusion only if it “actually cause[s] a delay, or the expectation of a delay, of trial.” 579 F. 3d 589, 598 (2009). In our view, however, the statutory exclusion does not contain this kind of causation requirement. Rather, the filing of a pretrial motion falls within this provision irrespective of whether it actually causes, or is expected to cause, delay in starting a trial.
Jason Louis Tinklenberg, the respondent, was convicted of violating federal drug and gun laws. 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(1) (felon in possession of a firearm); 21 U. S. C. §843(a)(6) (possession of items used to manufacture a controlled substance). He made his initial appearance before a judicial officer on October 31, 2005, and the Speedy Trial clock then began to run. His trial began on August 14, 2006, 287 days later. Just before trial, Tinklenberg asked the District Court to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the trial came too late, violating the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day requirement. The District Court denied the motion after finding that 218 of the 287 days fell within various Speedy Trial Act exclusions, leaving 69 nonexcludable days, thereby making the trial timely.
On appeal the Sixth Circuit agreed with the District Court that many of the 287 days were excludable. But it disagreed with the District Court about the excludability of time related to three pretrial motions. The Government filed the first motion, an unopposed motion to conduct a video deposition of a witness, on August 1, 2006; the District Court disposed of the motion on August 3, 2006. The Government filed the second motion, an unopposed motion to bring seized firearms into the courtroom as evidence at trial, on August 8, 2006; the District Court disposed of the motion on August 10, 2006. Tinklenberg filed the third motion, a motion to dismiss the indictment under the Speedy Trial Act, on August 11, 2006; the District Court denied that motion on August 14, 2006. In the Sixth Circuit’s view, the nine days during which the three motions were pending were not excludable because the motions did not “actually cause a delay, or the expectation of delay, of trial.” 579 F. 3d, at 598. Because these 9 days were sufficient to bring the number of nonexcludable days above 70, the Court of Appeals found a violation of the Act. And given the fact that Tinklenberg had already served his prison sentence, it ordered the District Court to dismiss the indictment with prejudice.
We granted certiorari at the Government’s request in order to review the Sixth Circuit’s motion-by-motion causation test. We now reverse its determination. But because we agree with the defendant about a subsidiary matter, namely, the exclusion of certain holidays and weekend days during the period in which he was transported for a competency examination, id., at 597, we affirm the Court of Appeals’ ultimate conclusion.
In relevant part the Speedy Trial Act sets forth a basic rule: “In any case in which a plea of not guilty is entered, the trial of a defendant . . . shall commence within seventy days from [the later of (1)] the filing date . . . of the information or indictment, or . . . [(2)] the date the defendant has appeared before a judicial officer of the court in which such charge is pending . . . .” §3161(c)(1) (2006 ed.). The Act then says that the “following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing . . . the time within which the trial . . . must commence.” §3161(h) (2006 ed., Supp. III). It lists seven such “periods of delay.”
It describes the first of these seven excludable periods as “(1) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant including but not limited to—
“(A) delay resulting from any proceeding . . . to determine the mental competency or physical capacity of the defendant;
“(B) delay resulting from trial with respect to other charges . . . ;
“(C) delay resulting from any interlocutory appeal;
“(D) delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion;
“(E) delay resulting from any proceeding relating to the transfer of a case [or defendant] . . . from another district . . . ;
“(F) delay resulting from transportation of any defendant from another district, or to and from places of examination or hospitalization, except that any time consumed in excess of ten days . . . shall be presumed to be unreasonable;
“(G) delay resulting from consideration by the court of a proposed plea agreement . . .;
“(H) delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty days, during which any proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement by the court.” Ibid. (2006 ed. and Supp. III) (emphasis added).
The particular provision before us, subparagraph (D), excludes from the Speedy Trial period “delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion.” §3161(h)(1)(D). The question is whether this provision stops the Speedy Trial clock from running automatically upon the filing of a pretrial motion irrespective of whether the motion has any impact on when the trial begins. Unlike the Sixth Circuit, we believe the answer to this question is yes.
We begin with the Act’s language. The Sixth Circuit based its answer primarily upon that language. It argued that the phrase “delay resulting from,” read most naturally, requires a court to apply the exclusion provision only to those “motion[s]” that “actually cause a delay, or the expectation of a delay, of trial.” 579 F. 3d, at 598. We agree that such a reading is linguistically reasonable, but the Court of Appeals wrote that there “is no conceivable way to read this language other than to require a delay to result from any pretrial motion before excludable time occurs.” Ibid. See also ibid. (“[T]he statute is clear”). And here we disagree.
When the Court of Appeals says that its reading is the only way any reasonable person could read this language, it overstates its claim. For one thing, even though the word “delay” ordinarily indicates a postponement, it need not inevitably do so. Compare The American Heritage Dictionary 480 (4th ed. 2000) (“[t]o postpone until a later time” or “[t]o cause to be later or slower than expected or desired”) with ibid. (“[t]he interval of time between two events”). In any event, terms must be read in their statutory context in order to determine how the provision in question should be applied in an individual case.
Statutory language that describes a particular circumstance, for example, might require a judge to examine each individual case to see if that circumstance is present. But, alternatively, it might ask a judge instead to look at more general matters, such as when a statute requires a judge to increase the sentence of one convicted of a “crime of violence” without requiring the judge to determine whether the particular crime at issue in a particular case was committed in a violent manner. See Taylor v. United States, 495 U. S. 575, 602 (1990) (“crime of violence” characterizes the generic crime, not the particular act committed). Similarly a statute that forbids the importation of “wild birds” need not require a court to decide whether a particular parrot is, in fact, wild or domesticated. It may intend to place the entire species within that definition without investigation of the characteristics of an individual specimen. See United States v. Fifty-Three (53) Eclectus Parrots, 685 F. 2d 1131, 1137 (CA9 1982).
More than that, statutory language can sometimes specify that a set of circumstances exhibits a certain characteristic virtually as a matter of definition and irrespective of how a court may view it in a particular case. A statute that describes “extortion” as a “crime of violence” makes that fact so by definition, without asking a court to second-guess Congress about the matter. 18 U. S. C. §924(e)(2)(B)(ii) (2006 ed.) (defining “violent felony” to include extortion for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act).
The statute before us, though more complex, can be read similarly. The pretrial motion subparagraph falls within a general set of provisions introduced by the phrase: “The following periods of delay shall be excluded.” §3161(h) (2006 ed., Supp. III). That phrase is then followed by a list that includes “[a]ny period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including . . . .” §3161(h)(1). This latter list is followed by a sublist, each member (but one) of which is introduced by the phrase “delay resulting from . . . ,” ibid. (2006 ed. and Supp. III), which words are followed by a more specific description, such as “any pretrial motion” from its “filing” “through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion.” §3161(h)(1)(D) (2006 ed., Supp. III). The whole paragraph can be read as requiring the automatic exclusion of the members of that specific sublist, while referring to those members in general as “periods of delay” and as causing that delay, not because Congress intended the judge to determine causation, but because, in a close to definitional way, the words embody Congress’ own view of the matter.
It is not farfetched to describe the members of the specific sublist in the statute before us in this definitional sense—as “periods of delay” or as bringing about delay. After all, the exclusion of any of the specific periods described always delays the expiration of the 70-day Speedy Trial deadline. Or Congress might have described the specific periods listed in paragraph (1) as “periods of delay” and “delay[s] resulting from” simply because periods of the type described often do cause a delay in the start of trial. Both explanations show that, linguistically speaking, one can read the statutory exclusion as automatically applying to the specific periods described without leaving to the district court the task of determining whether the period described would or did actually cause a postponement of the trial in the particular case. Thus, language alone cannot resolve the basic question presented in this case. But when read in context and in light of the statute’s structure and purpose, we think it clear that Congress intended subparagraph (D) to apply automatically.
We now turn to several considerations, which, taken together, convince us that the subparagraphs that specifically list common pretrial occurrences apply automatically in the way we have just described. First, subparagraph (D) clarifies that the trial court should measure the period of excludable delay for a pretrial motion “from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of such motion,” but nowhere does it mention the date on which the trial begins or was expected to begin. §3161(h)(1)(D) (2006 ed., Supp. III). Thus, it is best read to instruct measurement of the time actually consumed by consideration of the pretrial motion. Two other related subparagraphs contain clarifying language that contemplates measurement of the time actually consumed by the specified pretrial occurrence without regard to the commencement of the trial. See §3161(h)(1)(F) (“Any time consumed in excess of ten days from the date an order of removal or an order directing such transportation, and the defendant’s arrival at the destination shall be presumed to be unreasonable”); §3161(h)(1)(H) (“delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty days, during which any proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement by the court”). If “delay” truly referred to the postponement of trial, then presumably those subparagraphs would instruct that excludable periods should be measured from the date that trial was otherwise scheduled to begin.
Second, we are impressed that during the 37 years since Congress enacted the Speedy Trial Act, every Court of Appeals has considered the question before us now, and every Court of Appeals, implicitly or explicitly, has rejected the interpretation that the Sixth Circuit adopted in this case. See United States v. Wilson, 835 F. 2d 1440, 1443 (CADC 1987) (explicit), abrogated on other grounds by Bloate v. United States, 559 U. S. ___ (2010); United States v. Hood, 469 F. 3d 7, 10 (CA1 2006) (explicit); United States v. Cobb, 697 F. 2d 38, 42 (CA2 1982) (explicit), abrogated on other grounds by Henderson v. United States, 476 U. S. 321 (1986); United States v. Novak, 715 F. 2d 810, 813 (CA3 1983) (explicit) abrogated on other grounds by Henderson v. United States, 476 U. S. 321 (1986); United States v. Dorlouis, 107 F. 3d 248, 253–254 (CA4 1997) (explicit); United States v. Green, 508 F. 3d 195, 200 (CA5 2007) (explicit); United States v. Montoya, 827 F. 2d 143, 151 (CA7 1987) (explicit); United States v. Titlbach, 339 F. 3d 692, 698 (CA8 2003) (implicit); United States v. Van Brandy, 726 F. 2d 548, 551 (CA9 1984) (explicit); United States v. Vogl, 374 F. 3d 976, 985–986 (CA10 2004) (explicit); United States v. Stafford, 697 F. 2d 1368, 1371–1372 (CA11 1983) (explicit). This unanimity among the lower courts about the meaning of a statute of great practical administrative importance in the daily working lives of busy trial judges is itself entitled to strong consideration, particularly when those courts have maintained that interpretation consistently over a long a period of time. See General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540 U. S. 581, 593–594 (2004).
Third, the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation would make the subparagraph (D) exclusion significantly more difficult to administer. And in doing so, it would significantly hinder the Speedy Trial Act’s efforts to secure fair and efficient criminal trial proceedings. See Zedner v. United States, 547 U. S. 489, 497 (2006) (noting that the Act’s exceptions provide “necessary flexibility”); H. R. Rep. No. 93–1508, p. 15 (1974) (the Act seeks to achieve “efficiency in the processing of cases which is commensurate with due process”); S. Rep. No. 93–1021, p. 21 (1974). Trial judges may, for example, set trial dates beyond 70 days in light of other commitments. And in doing so, a trial judge may well be aware, based on his or her experience, that pretrial motions will likely consume the extra time—even though the judge may know little about which specific motions will be filed, when, and how many. How is that judge to apply the Sixth Circuit’s approach, particularly when several, including unanticipated, pretrial proceedings did consume the time in question?
Moreover, what is to happen if several excludable and several nonexcludable potential causes of delay (e.g., pretrial motions to take depositions, potential scheduling conflicts, various health examinations, etc.) coincide, particularly in multidefendant cases? Can the judge, motion by motion, decide which motions were responsible and which were not responsible for postponing what otherwise might have been an earlier trial date? And how is a defendant or his attorney to predict whether or when a judge will later find a particular motion to have caused a postponement of trial? And if the matter is difficult to predict, how is the attorney to know when or whether he or she should seek further postponement of the 70-day deadline?
With considerable time and judicial effort, perhaps through the use of various presumptions, courts could find methods for overcoming these and other administrative difficulties. In some instances, the judge may know at the time of filing that a given motion is easily resolved or that its complexity will almost certainly postpone the trial. Judges could note on the record their predictions about whether the motion will postpone trial at the time that the motion is filed. Parties could also stipulate as to whether a given motion would be excluded from the Speedy Trial clock. But those theoretical strategies would not prevent all or even most mistakes, needless dismissals of indictments, and potential retrials after appeal—all of which exact a toll in terms of the fairness of and confidence in the criminal justice system. And any such future strategies for administering the Sixth Circuit’s rule cannot provide a present justification for turning the federal judicial system away from the far less obstacle-strewn path that the system has long traveled.
Fourth, we are reinforced in our conclusion by the difficulty of squaring the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation with this Court’s precedent. In Henderson v. United States, 476 U. S. 321 (1986), the Court rejected the contention that the exclusion provision for pretrial motions governs only reasonable delays. The Court there concluded (as the Court of Appeals had held) that the exclusion “was intended to be automatic.” Id., at 327 (quoting United States v. Henderson, 746 F. 2d 619, 622 (CA9 1984); internal quotation marks omitted). See also Bloate v. United States, 559 U. S. ___ (2010) (holding based in part on the view that the exclusion applies “automatically” to the specified period of delay). Henderson did not consider whether a trial court must determine whether the pretrial motion actually caused postponement of the trial in each individual case. But the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation would nonetheless significantly limit the premise of “automatic application” upon which the case rests.
Fifth, for those who find legislative history useful, it is worthwhile noting, (as this Court noted in Henderson) that the Senate Report concerning the reenactment of the provision in 1979 described it, along with the other provisions in §3161(h)(1), as referring to “specific and recurring periods of time often found in criminal cases,” and characterized them as “automatically excludable delay,” S. Rep. No. 96–212, p. 9 (1979). See H. R. Rep. No. 93–1508, at 21 (“The time limits would be tolled by hearings, proceedings and necessary delay which normally occur prior to the trial of criminal cases” (emphasis added)); S. Rep. No. 93– 1021, at 21 (“[The Act] has carefully constructed exclusions and exceptions which permit normal pre-trial preparation in the ordinary noncomplex cases which represent the bulk of business in the Federal courts”). But cf. id., at 35 (paragraph (h)(1) excludes “[d]elays caused by proceedings relating to the defendant” (emphasis added)).
Sixth, because all the subparagraphs but one under paragraph (1) begin with the phrase “delay resulting from,” the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation would potentially extend well beyond pretrial motions and encompass such matters as mental and physical competency examinations, interlocutory appeals, consideration of plea agreements, and the absence of essential witnesses. See §3161(h)(1) (2006 ed., Supp. III); §3161(h)(3)(A) (2006 ed.). Given the administrative complexity the causation requirement would bring about in all these areas, those Circuits that have considered a causation requirement in respect to these other matters have rejected it. See, e.g., United States v. Pete, 525 F. 3d 844, 852 (CA9 2008) (interlocutory appeal); United States v. Miles, 290 F. 3d 1341, 1350 (CA11 2002) (unavailability of essential witnesses); United States v. Robinson, 887 F. 2d 651, 656–657 (CA6 1989) (trial on other charges). That further complexity, along with these lower court holdings, reinforce our conclusion.
We consequently disagree with the Sixth Circuit that the Act’s exclusion requires a court to find that the event the exclusion specifically describes, here the filing of the pretrial motion, actually caused or was expected to cause delay of a trial. We hold that the Act contains no such requirement.
Tinklenberg also argues that the Sixth Circuit wrongly interpreted a different exclusion provision, this time the provision excluding “delay resulting from transportation of any defendant from another district, or to and from places of examination or hospitalization, except that any time consumed in excess of ten days from the date an order of removal or an order directing such transportation, and the defendant’s arrival at the destination shall be presumed to be unreasonable.” §3161(h)(1)(F) (2006 ed., Supp. III) (emphasis added). The District Court granted Tinklenberg’s request for a competency evaluation and he was transported to a medical facility for examination. The lower courts agreed that a total of 20 transportation days elapsed and that since the Government provided no justification, all days in excess of the 10 days specified in the statute were unreasonable. But in counting those excess days, the court exempted weekend days and holidays. Since Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and three weekends all fell within the 20-day period, only 2 days, not 10 days, were considered excessive, during which the 70-day Speedy Trial Act clock continued to tick.
Tinklenberg argues that subparagraph (F) does not exempt weekend days and holidays; hence the court should have considered 10, not 2, days to be excessive. And the parties concede that those 8 extra ticking days are enough to make the difference between compliance with, and violation of, the Act.
As the Solicitor General notes, we may consider, or “decline to entertain,” alternative grounds for affirmance. See United States v. Nobles, 422 U. S. 225, 242, n. 16 (1975). In this case, we believe it treats Tinklenberg, who has already served his sentence, more fairly to consider the alternative ground and thereby more fully to dispose of the case.
The Sixth Circuit exempted weekend days and holidays because it believed that subparagraph (F) incorporated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 45(a). At the relevant time, that Rule excluded weekend days and holidays when computing any period of time specified in the “rules,” in “any local rule,” or in “any court order” that was less than 11 days. Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 45(a) (2005). But in our view subparagraph (F) does not incorporate Rule 45. The Act does not say that it incorporates Rule 45. The Government has given us no good reason for reading it as incorporating the Rule. And the Rule itself, as it existed at the relevant time, said that it applied to “rules” and to “orders,” but it said nothing about statutes. Other things being equal, the fact that Rule 45 is revised from time to time also argues against its direct application to subparagraph (F). That is because those changes, likely reflecting considerations other than those related to the Speedy Trial Act, may well leave courts treating similar defendants differently.
Without relying upon a cross-reference to Rule 45, we believe the better reading of subparagraph (F) would include weekend days and holidays in its 10-day time period. Under the common-law rule, weekend days and holidays are included when counting a statutory time period of 10 days unless the statute specifically excludes them. See 74 Am. Jur. 2d, Time §22, p. 589 (2001) (in calculating time periods expressed in statutes, “when the time stipulated must necessarily include one or more Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays, those days will not be excluded, in the absence of an express proviso for their exclusion”). Many courts have treated statutory time periods this way. See, e.g., Howeisen v. Chapman, 195 Ind. 381, 383–384, 145 N. E. 487, 488 (1924); American Tobacco Co. v. Strickling, 88 Md. 500, 508–511, 41 A. 1083, 1086 (1898). And Congress has tended specifically to exclude weekend days and holidays from statutory time periods of 10 days when it intended that result. Compare 18 U. S. C. §3142(d)(2) (permitting the temporary detention of certain defendants “for a period of not more than ten days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays”) and 5 U. S. C. §552a(d)(2)(A) (requiring an agency to acknowledge receipt of a request to amend agency records within “10 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays)”) with 18 U. S. C. §2518(9) (establishing a 10-day period for disclosing applications for and court orders authorizing wiretaps without specifically excluding weekends and holidays) and §4244(a) (providing a 10-day period after conviction for filing a motion to request mental health treatment without specifically excluding weekends and holidays). Indeed, Rule 45 has been recently modified so that now (though not at the time of Tinklenberg’s proceedings) it requires a similar result. Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 45(a)(1) (2010) (instructing that weekend days and holidays are to be counted when calculating all time periods, including statutory time periods for which no alternative method of computing time is specified).
* * *
We disagree with the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation of both subparagraph (D) and subparagraph (F), and now hold that its interpretations of those two provisions are mistaken. Nonetheless the conclusions the court drew from those two interpretations in relevant part cancel each other out such that the court’s ultimate conclusion that Tinklenberg’s trial failed to comply with the Speedy Trial Act’s deadline is correct. Therefore, the Sixth Circuit’s judgment ordering dismissal of the indictment on remand is Affirmed.
JUSTICE KAGAN took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Opinion of SCALIA, J.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES, PETITIONER v. JASON LOUIS
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
[May 26, 2011]
JUSTICE SCALIA, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE THOMAS join, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
I join Parts I and III of the Court’s opinion. I agree with the judgment of the Court in Part II that a pretrial motion need not actually postpone a trial, or create an expectation of postponement, in order for its pendency to be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, 18 U. S. C. §3161(h)(1)(D) (2006 ed., Supp. III). But I think that conclusion is entirely clear from the text of the Speedy Trial Act, and see no need to look beyond the text. The clarity of the text is doubtless why, as the Court’s opinion points out, ante, at 8, every Circuit disagrees with the Sixth Circuit’s conclusion. That is the direction in which the causality proceeds: Clarity of text produces unanimity of Circuits—not, as the Court’s opinion would have it, unanimity of Circuits clarifies text.
As the Court discusses, ante, at 5, the word “delay” can mean postponement, but it can also mean an “interval of time between two events.” American Heritage Dictionary 480 (4th ed. 2000). One might refer to the “delay” between two ticks of a clock, or between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, but that does not imply that the first postponed or slowed the second. Here there are substantial textual indications that the word “delay” similarly refers to the period between ticks of the speedy trial clock—in other words, the period during which the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day requirement is tolled.
Interpreting the “delay” referred to in §3161(h)(1)(D) (or referred to anywhere else in §3161(h)) as the delay of a trial date* would make little sense in light of the context of the provision and the structure of the statute. Section 3161(h)(1)(D) specifies starting and stopping points for the excludable “delay” that bear no relation whatsoever to the actual amount of time that a trial might be postponed by a pretrial motion. It equates the “delay resulting from any pretrial motion” to the period of time between “the filing of the motion” and “the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of, such motion.” This equation is possible if “delay” refers to an interval of time excludable for purposes of the Speedy Trial Act, but it makes no sense if “delay” refers to the time a trial is postponed. Consider, for example, a pretrial motion that is pending for 10 days but causes the district court to push back a trial’s beginning by only one day. In such a situation, §3161(h)(1)(D) would require that the entire 10-day period be excluded for Speedy Trial Act purposes.
Neighboring statutory provisions, moreover, link the excludable “delay” to the time consumed by the specified event, not the number of days a trial is postponed. Section 3161(h)(1)(H), for example, excludes “delay reasonably attributable to any period, not to exceed thirty days, during which any proceeding concerning the defendant is actually under advisement by the court.” And §3161(h)(1)(F) excludes “delay resulting from transportation . . . except that any time consumed in excess of ten days from . . . an order directing such transportation, and the defendant’s arrival at the destination shall be presumed to be unreasonable.” If “delay” means trial delay, it makes little sense for Congress to have placed a limit upon the “time consumed” in transporting a defendant rather than upon the permissible postponement of trial date.
The Speedy Trial Act’s structure also suggests that §3161(h)(1)(D) is meant to apply automatically and is not dependent on predicate findings of postponement. Section 3161(h) lists various types of delay that may be excluded, the first six of which (including §3161(h)(1)(D)) make no reference to any required findings. But the seventh, which excludes “delay resulting from a continuance granted by any judge,” conditions that exclusion upon certain findings, §3161(h)(7)(A). In light of this difference in formulation, we have held that the first six exclusions are “ ‘automatic,’ ” apply “regardless of the specifics of the case,” and require no district-court findings. Bloate v. United States, 559 U. S. ___, ___, n. 1, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 1, n. 1, 6); see also Henderson v. United States, 476 U. S. 321, 327 (1986). Tinklenberg’s incorporation of a threshold inquiry into §3161(h)(1)(D) would make it none of these things.
Delay of trial is also ruled out by the fact that the text is forward looking. It says that the “following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing . . . the time within which the trial . . . must commence.” §3161(h) (emphasis added). This is designed to enable the determination in advance of the date by which the trial “must commence.” Quite obviously, if the specified delays did not count unless and until they delayed the trial, one could not know whether they counted until after the fact. And on that interpretation the provision should have read, not “the time within which the trial . . . must commence,” but rather “the time within which the trial . . . should have commenced.” And finally, there are the administrative difficulties that arise when “delay” is taken to mean “delay in trial,” discussed in the Court’s opinion at pages 9–10. These are not relevant on their own, but only because they bear upon the meaning of the text. When one of two possible meanings yields impracticable results, the other meaning is more likely correct.
Tinklenberg would invent a threshold inquiry applicable only to §3161(h)(1)(D): If, he says, at least some delay of the trial date has occurred, then the entire period specified in §3161(h)(1)(D) may be excluded. This makes no sense. First, nothing in the statute supports treating the word “delay” as a trigger for an exclusion of an unrelated period of time; quite the opposite, §3161(h)(1)(D) treats the period of “delay” and the pendency of the pretrial motion equivalently. Second, that interpretation would ascribe different meanings to the word “delay” as it is used throughout the Speedy Trial Act. “[D]elay resulting from any interlocutory appeal,” §3161(h)(1)(C), for example, would refer to the number of days a trial was postponed; but “delay resulting from any pretrial motion,” §3161(h)(1)(D), would refer to the different period specified in that paragraph. Identical words used in different parts of a statute are presumed to have the same meaning absent indication to the contrary, and here no such indication exists. See IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U. S. 21, 34 (2005).
Tinklenberg also argues that his interpretation draws support from the phrase “resulting from,” which appears after the word “delay” in §3161(h)(1)(D). He asserts that this phrase “underscores that Subsection (D) excludes periods of delay that occur as a consequence of pretrial motions, not merely the time during which such motions are pending.” Brief for Respondent 17. That is true enough, but it sheds no light on the meaning of the word “delay.” Cf. Bloate, supra, at ___, n. 9 (slip op., at 8, n. 9). There is nothing odd in saying that an interval of excludable time under §3161(h)(1)(D) arises “as a consequence” of a party’s having filed a pretrial motion; if no pretrial motion is filed, no delay results. * I consider only this possibility, and not the extended meaning invented by the Sixth Circuit (“expectation of a dela[y] of trial”)— presumably to explain how delay can be computed ex ante, before any trial delay has actually occurred. See 579 F. 3d 589, 598 (2009). “[E]xpectation of a delay” is simply not one of the possible meanings of “delay.”
ORAL ARGUMENT OF MATTHEW D. ROBERTS ON BEHALF OF PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We'll hear argument next in Case 09-1498, United States v. Tinklenberg.
Mr. Roberts: Thank you.
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
To accommodate important pretrial proceedings, the Speedy Trial Act contains several automatic exclusions from its deadline for commencing trial.
This case concerns the exclusion for pretrial motions, which excludes the period of delay resulting from any pretrial motion from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on or other prompt disposition of such motion.
For more than 30 years, the courts of appeals had uniformly held that the exclusion applies automatically upon the filing of any motion, regardless of its effect on the trial schedule.
The court below correctly rejected that established rule, which accords with this Court's decisions, is clear and easy to administer, and has worked well for over 3 decades.
The Court's cases construing the exclusion, Henderson and Bloate, support the established rule.
They make clear that the exclusion applies automatically once a motion is filed without any need for district court findings.
Henderson and Bloate cannot be squared with the approach of Respondent and the court below.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, all that might be true.
On the other hand, the statute does say "delay resulting".
And under your approach, the time would be excluded even if delay does not result.
Mr. Roberts: No, Your Honor.
Delay refers to the interval of time from the filing of the motion through its disposition, during which the Speedy Trial Act's deadline is tolled.
We know that delay has the meaning -- delay can often have the meaning of the interval of time between two events.
And we know it has that meaning in the statute here because subsection (D) tells us so.
It defines the period of excludable delay resulting from the motion as the time from the filing through the disposition of the motion.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But the Chief Justice says only if it -- it's really a circular argument -- only if it results in a delay.
Well, suppose it doesn't result in a delay?
Mr. Roberts: --That's assuming that delay is referring to delay of the trial, to a postponement in the trial.
But delay can't have that meaning because if it has that -- if that meaning is inconsistent with subsection (D) of the statute's exclusion of the time, of saying that delay is the time from the filing of the motion through the disposition of the motion, because the statute excludes periods of delay.
And if delay meant postponement of the trial, then the excluded period would be the time during which trial is postponed, but that period is often significantly shorter or longer than the time from the filing of the motion to the disposition.
And in Henderson and Bloate--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But that doesn't -- that prove the point that I think is the concern of the Chief Justice's question, that in some cases the delay -- there's a delay that results and in other cases there isn't.
Mr. Roberts: --But, Your Honor, the statute excludes the period of delay, and then it says the period of delay is the time from the filing through the disposition.
If delay -- if delay means postponement of the trial, then all that's excluded by the statute in the first part is the -- is the time during which trial is postponed, but that doesn't match up with subsection (D) because that period is not necessarily the period from the filing through the disposition.
If I could give you an example.
Say a motion is filed 14 days before trial could begin, and the motion takes 16 days to resolve.
Trial is postponed only by two days.
And so if delay means the postponement of trial, then the period of delay should be 2 days, but the statute says that the delay and the excludable time is the time from the filing through the disposition, which is 16 days.
And that's what this Court held in Henderson and Bloate, that that's the exact time.
So if you adopt a definition of delay for the first part as a triggering mechanism that's the postponement of trial, that doesn't line up with the rest of the statute.
In addition, that would be a totally unworkable rule because whether time is excludable would turn on a complex and often uncertain analysis of whether the motion would or could delay when trial would begin, and it's often going to be difficult or impossible to make that determination at the time that the motion is filed.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Mr. Roberts, is there -- is there any, anything to indicate that what Congress might have had in mind is that in criminal cases inevitably there are going to be motions, and so the trial judge is likely to set the trial date for after that period runs?
Mr. Roberts: Yes, Your Honor.
Sometimes trial -- judges might take motions into account in setting the trial date and other times they might not take the motions into account.
So a rule that -- that said the exclusion only applies if the judge moves the trial date in response to the motion would lead to arbitrary results.
It would mean basically that whether time was excludable depended on whether the judge took the motions into account when it set the trial date initially or whether the, whether the judge correctly estimated the amount of time.
And also sometimes motions may be filed when no trial date is set, so the rule would be totally unworkable in that situation.
And Respondent, in one of his formulations for what the test might be, suggests that a motion wouldn't create excludable delay unless it would postpone the hypothetical earliest date on which trial could otherwise begin.
That's just a totally unworkable rule, because to divine that hypothetical date, courts would have to assess the effect of multiple different factors that could affect when trial would begin, such as: How much time do the parties and the counsel need for factual investigation and legal analysis?
How long is discovery going to take?
There would be numerous questions that would arise about how to apply those factors.
For example, the courts would have to decide: Should they take potential obstacles to an earlier trial as given, or should they instead think about whether those obstacles could be eliminated?
The courts would also have to figure out what to do if the earliest possible trial date changed between when the motion was filed and when the motion was resolved.
And how would they take into account other periods of time that might exclude delay -- might exclude -- that might be excludable also?
For example, say a court gets two motions filed at the same time.
Trial could start in 5 days absent the motion.
One motion's going to take 3 days to resolve; the other motion's going to take 4 days to resolve.
What's the court supposed to do?
Is one -- is the 3-day motion excluded?
Is the 4-day motion excluded?
Are both of the motions excluded?
Does it depend on the order in which the court decides them?
It just is not possible for a court to make these determinations.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: You said at the outset that things have been working fine.
Of course, the whole point of the Act was to hold district judges to a pretty strict standard, and the concern is that there might be a very complex case the judge just really wants to put off as long as possible and will continue to accept motion after motion.
Is there anything I can -- I can read or consult to show that this has been working very well and that there's not a problem?
Mr. Roberts: Well, I -- I can't point to anything particular, but there's been no outcry that -- that there's been a problem from pretrial motions being filed as a -- as an attempt to extend the Speedy Trial Act deadline.
The court's been -- the -- Congress has reviewed the Speedy Trial Act's operation in the past.
It made changes in 1979 to address problems that have occurred.
It hasn't felt the need to address this problem since, and there's no evidence of any abuse of the automatic exclusion on the other side.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, on that issue, do you accept the First Circuit's rule in U.S. v. Hood that if the government is found to be attempting to frustrate the operation of the Speedy Trial Act, that those motions and their delays won't be counted?
Mr. Roberts: Well, first, Your Honor, I don't think that -- that Hood adopted any such rule.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: It suggests that qualification?
Mr. Roberts: --It suggests that there might be that qualification.
I think that the statute provides that the -- that any pretrial motion tolls the deadline, regardless of the purpose for which it's filed.
But, of course, if -- in the unlikely event that a prosecutor did file a motion solely to extend the deadline and avoid proceeding to trial, that conduct would be sanctionable under -- under the Act, under section 3162(b)(4).
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Sanctionable against the government, or--
Mr. Roberts: The attorney could be sanctioned for that.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --How does that help a defendant whose speedy trial rights have been violated?
Mr. Roberts: Well, the -- the court doesn't need to put off trial just because time is excluded, Your Honor, and the court has other mechanisms that it can use--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: You haven't answered my question.
The rights that this statute protects are the rights to have your trial start within 70 days absent or extended to these exclusions.
If the government frustrates that and makes the trial start later, why shouldn't a defendant have the benefit of the Act and have the indictment dismissed with or without prejudice?
Mr. Roberts: --Well, the statute provides the circumstances in which time is excludable and in which time is not, and it doesn't create an exception for certain kinds of motions.
It applies to any pretrial motion.
But I have to say, there's been no evidence over the 30 years that anything like this is happening, and in Hood itself, the motion was filed by defense counsel, and the court was simply saying that this is not -- that that's not what's going on here, there's no suggestion that this motion is part of a process to try to frustrate the Act.
There's -- the problem just hasn't arisen.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, I hope you won't sit down without addressing the (h)(1)(F) issue and explain why we shouldn't reach it, because the issue is, as I see it, one of law, not like Nobles, one of discretion.
And although you say it's unimportant because of a change in Rule 45, how could any criminal conviction that's inappropriate be unimportant to the defendant or insignificant enough for this Court to address the question once the case is before us?
Mr. Roberts: Well, the Court -- the Court does decline to address questions if it doesn't consider them of sufficient importance to -- general importance to warrant a review.
Nobles is one example.
There are others cited in Stern and Gressman.
But the reason that this issue is not of any ongoing importance is that the rules have been amended.
It now expressly applies to statutes like this one that don't specify a method for counting time.
And, you know, turning to the merits of the issue, also -- one other point on the importance of it.
The circuits all have adopted the same approach as the Court of Appeals here, and--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Two?
How many circuits are we talking about?
Mr. Roberts: --Two other circuits, but there aren't any that have -- that have held to the contrary.
Justice Samuel Alito: If we were to decide this based on subsection (F) involving the counting of 10 days, wouldn't that render our decision on anything that we had to say about subsection (D) dictum?
Mr. Roberts: I don't think it would render it dictum, Your Honor.
The Court can address issues in -- in whatever order it chooses to, and it doesn't mean that the -- the decisions that you make along the way aren't precedential and binding if they're part of the rationale to get there.
But we would -- we don't think--
Justice Antonin Scalia: It's not part of the rationale.
The rationale for our decision would be (h)(1)(D) alone, and all the other discussion would be perfectly gratuitous, because we're going to set this individual free anyway.
To say, well, this other thing is not a good reason to set them free, but this one is, I mean, that -- the former is just utterly irrelevant to our decision.
Mr. Roberts: --Well, Your Honor, the Respondent offered this argument as a ground not to grant certiorari in its -- in his brief in opposition.
The Court nonetheless took the case.
The circuits are divided on this -- this issue--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I'm not disagreeing with you.
I'm trying to help you.
Mr. Roberts: --Well, I think you could -- I'm not sure that I think that it would be impermissible for -- for the Court to decide the issues in that order, but if you think so and you think that that's a reason--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I'm sure it's not impermissible, but I'm also sure that if we do it, what we say about the ground for which we took the case would be -- would be the purest dictum.
Mr. Roberts: --I can see how you might think so.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Courts of appeal--
Mr. Roberts: I think the courts of appeals would follow it.
But -- but I'm not arguing that you should just--
Justice Antonin Scalia: It's their fault; they shouldn't follow dictum, you know?
Mr. Roberts: --I'm not trying to argue you should decide the issue.
We don't think you should decide the issue.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Is it because, Mr. Roberts, as you pointed out, it's not a continuing problem since the amendment to Rule 45, it's calendar days, and so there's no problem, and so what you're suggesting is we would not have granted cert on that question?
Mr. Roberts: Exactly.
You wouldn't have granted cert on the question.
It's of no continuing importance.
It's not going to affect cases going forward, and there's no reason for the Court to reach out and decide it.
In any event, the court of appeals correctly decided the question.
The -- the statute doesn't specify whether the 10 days are calendar days or business days, and it's therefore reasonable to infer that Congress expected that the -- that the courts would interpret the provision in accordance with the counting rules that are applicable in similar criminal contexts.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --It -- it may be pertinent on this question: Mr. Tinklenberg was designated for transfer to MCC in Chicago on November 10th.
How was that done?
Was that done by -- is that a court order or is that an administrative--
Mr. Roberts: I believe what happened is the court ordered -- the court ordered on the 2nd that there should be a competency examination.
On the 10th, the -- the BOP designated that the MCC would be where the competency examination--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --So the BOP did it, not a court?
Mr. Roberts: --would take place.
And on then the 10th was, as it turns out, was a Thursday before Veterans Day.
Then there was Veterans Day, and November 12th and 13th were the weekend.
So on the next Monday the Marshals Service asked the Justice Transportation Service to transport the defendant.
But the way these things worked is that when there are interdistrict transportation, they use airlifts that go around the country; and the airlifts go -- there are two flights a day.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, I don't know--
Mr. Roberts: They make three stops.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --You seem to be getting into this.
I just wanted to know if it was a court order on the 10th, and what you're telling me is the last court order before he was moved was on the 2nd.
Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Is -- is it right that the Rules Committee then changed it, and it basically said the way the defendant here thinks it should be is that's what it should be?
Isn't that what happened?
Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Okay -- now--
Mr. Roberts: The Rules--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --The Rules Committee said count calendar days.
Mr. Roberts: --Changed the rule--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: They changed the rule.
Mr. Roberts: --for -- for Rule 45, yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: And now you think that the Federal courts are right in saying, judge, when you have a Speedy Trial Act case, look to Rule 45; you think that's right to do?
Mr. Roberts: Yes, we do.
We think that they--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Okay.
So why shouldn't this defendant whose case was on appeal get the advantage of that?
Mr. Roberts: --Because at the time, that wasn't -- at the time that -- that the transportation was done then--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I know it was under a different rule.
But where -- normally with cases where you have a new rule come in, it does apply to the advantage of the people who were then on appeal.
Is there something special about this, that Federal rules don't, or you just -- too bad, we thought it was a really erroneous thing that they had, we used to have, and we've corrected it, but just -- he's still on appeal, it doesn't apply to him?
Is there some law on that?
Mr. Roberts: --I think -- I think that -- that at the time that was the method that -- that dictated the transportation for him, and--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I understand.
I understand they followed the rule at the time.
Mr. Roberts: --retroactively--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: They've changed the rule.
His case is still on appeal.
Why shouldn't he get the advantage of the new rule?
Mr. Roberts: --Because it's not -- it's not a -- a rule of law that we're talking about.
It's the counting of the time, and it's impossible for a court to anticipate--
Justice Antonin Scalia: No.
You want to--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: It wasn't anybody's fault.
Why shouldn't we go back and say do it again, and now, let's -- since his case is still on appeal, it's the same question.
What's the argument against doing that?
Why can't we?
I'm sure there's some rule out there that says we can't do this, but I want to know what it is because it seems fair.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --May I suggest that perhaps the reason not to do it is, assuming this person was treated entirely fairly on the basis of the law that existed at the time, the consequence of what Justice Breyer proposes is to set free someone who has been duly convicted of a crime.
Mr. Roberts: --That's right.
Justice Antonin Scalia: And to do that simply because, although the -- the process was perfectly fair when it was applied, there's been a change in the rule and therefore we don't redo it, but we let this person go; right?
Mr. Roberts: I agree.
Justice Antonin Scalia: And can't be tried again.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Any other reason?
Mr. Roberts: I agree completely, Your Honor.
While, I think--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: I mean, I'm thinking that we normally -- although all this is quite true, what Justice Scalia says, normally we do apply new rules to those who are on appeal at the time.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I don't -- I don't agree with that.
Do you agree with that?
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, maybe--
Mr. Roberts: --I--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Do you agree with that?
Mr. Roberts: --I don't think that you -- I don't think that this is a new rule of law that you're talking about.
This is how the -- this is -- is the counting method.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Who wants the benefit of this new rule?
Who wants the new rule?
Does the government want the new rule or does the defendant want the new rule?
Mr. Roberts: We -- we don't want the -- we don't want the new rule.
We're just telling you--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel--
Mr. Roberts: --what we think the rule, what the rule means.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --there's a lot--
Mr. Roberts: I don't -- I don't understand--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --Counsel, there's a lot of discussion about the applicability or nonapplicability of this rule to this case.
The rule by its terms applies to computing any period of time specified in these rules, any local rule or any court order.
None of that includes the statute at issue here, correct?
Mr. Roberts: --Yes, Your Honor.
Our argument is not that the rule by its terms applies.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So this whole debate about whether the rule applies or not is irrelevant.
The only question is what does the statute intend, correct?
Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: All right.
So if what the statute intends hasn't changed--
Mr. Roberts: I agree with that.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --between the old rule or the revised rule, correct?
Mr. Roberts: Yes, I like that.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --made an amendment; correct?
Mr. Roberts: I like the way we're going.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But I think you don't.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Will you like the way we're going if I accept your proposition that when Congress uses 10 days, it really means 10 business days?
I take words in a statute like that at their plain meaning.
It says 10 days, not 10 business days.
Mr. Roberts: Well, Your Honor, I think that there's no plain meaning.
"Days" sometimes can mean business days; they can sometimes mean calendar days, and as I said before--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --But Congress has used 10 -- has used business days in other provisions, hasn't it?
Mr. Roberts: --I -- I don't know whether it's used business days or not.
Respondent does point out that there are some statutes that contain specific exclusions of weekends and holidays, but those statutes were--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Let's go back to -- I don't think you should have been so happy with the way the argument was going--
--because -- because your view is, Rule 40 -- if it's always assumed that there be conformity between Rule 45 -- Rule 45, it was business days, and then rule 45 changed not only to say calendar days, but included statutes for the first time.
So I think what you're saying is that the interpretation of the statute tracks with Rule 45, Rule 45 formerly was calendar -- was business days, it is now calendar days, there is conformity.
And plus, 45, and that was at least laid on the table of Congress, so they know that it was there.
Mr. Roberts: --Yes, Your Honor.
I think that -- that the statute always meant the same thing, and that it meant that 10 days should be interpreted in light of whatever the background rule is at the time for counting the time.
And so there's no -- there's no new rule; at the time the 10 days meant exclude the weekends and holidays, and now because the background rule has changed, it means count the weekends, and--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So Congress changed its mind between the two rules?
Mr. Roberts: --No, I don't think Congress changed its mind.
Congress wanted the -- the statute to--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: How do I know that?
Rule 45 doesn't apply to statutes.
Mr. Roberts: --Well--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Where in the statute does it -- say, apply the criminal rules?
Mr. Roberts: --Well, I think that -- that my point is that when it doesn't specify whether it's business or calendar days, that Congress anticipated the courts would say, okay, let's look to the background rule; and the place, the sensible place to look to the background rule is the rule -- is a rule of criminal procedure in analogous contexts.
In fact, courts frequently do that when they're trying to interpret statutes to figure out what the 10-day limit is/as many of the -- many of the cases cited in the ALR article that Respondent cites show.
Justice Samuel Alito: When you're trying -- when you're trying to figure out -- when you're dealing with procedural rules that involve filing things in court, it was once thought to make sense to exclude weekends because things couldn't be filed on the weekends, but when you're talking about transporting a prisoner.
What sense does it make to exclude the weekend?
Mr. Roberts: Well--
Justice Samuel Alito: --Do these flights of prisoners from one facility to another come to a stop when -- you know, when the whistle blows on Saturday -- on Friday afternoon?
Mr. Roberts: --Yes, Your Honor, generally the flights don't occur on the weekends or holidays.
That was sort of what I was trying to explain in my extended digression to the Chief -- to the Chief Justice before.
The BOP doesn't admit and discharge prisoners on the weekends.
In addition, there are various other factors that -- that go into the need to have two -- two deputy marshals transporting people.
So the transportation doesn't generally occur on the weekends.
And it's because of the weekends and holidays that the transportation of the defendant actually took the amount of time that it -- that it did here.
But I would say, as I started, in urging you not to address this issue, which is of no ongoing importance, that the question that we did ask the Court to address and that the Court granted review on is a very important question that's divided the circuits; and that allowing the rule that the court below adopted to continue to stand could frustrate the application of the Speedy Trial Act, not only with respect to the pretrial motions exclusion but potentially with respect to all the other automatic exclusions; and I think it's very important that the Court correct this error and reaffirm the established rule.
If I could reserve the remainder of my time for rebuttal.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JEFFREY L. FISHER ON BEHALF OF RESPONDENT
Mr. Fisher: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Before turning to the substance, I would like to, if I may, start with the procedural question that Justice Sotomayor raised and that -- and that my opponent just completed with, because I want to be sure there's no confusion on the posture of this case.
In particular, this Court's precedents squarely reject the notion that there's any history in this Court's precedents for refusing to reach an argument in this posture.
In particular, in Langness v. Green, 282 U.S. 531, this Court held in 1931 that a Respondent's, quote, "right" to defend a judgment below on a ground that is properly preserved all along and that the lower court reached and rejected is, quote, "beyond successful challenge".
Now, I'm not sure -- I'm not aware of any exception from that rule in the 80 years since.
Justice Samuel Alito: Suppose the petition here had simply raised one question, and that is the question of how you count time under -- under a version of Rule 45 of the Federal Rules Of Criminal Procedure that is not -- no longer in effect and as to which there is no conflict in the circuits.
How would you grade the chances of the Court taking cert on that?
Mr. Fisher: Well, I'll take your hypothetical, Justice Alito, but I do want to be able to correct the notion that it's of no longer continuing importance.
But I'll assume that your hypothetical on that kind of a question would be cert denied.
But that's never been an obstacle to reaching the question.
Let me give you two things that are very important here.
The first is the problem with the Government's citation to Nobles is not just a distinction between discretion and law.
If you look at the Solicitor General's own reply brief in that case, it pointed out that the problem with the alternative argument there was that it would give the defendant different relief.
So it was therefore subject to the cross-petitions rule, and that's the section in Stern and Gressman that's cited in their briefs.
Those are the only two citations they have, the citations to Nobles and the citations to Stern and Gressman, which are all about cross-petitions when the defendant wants different relief.
We want exactly the same relief.
We want a dismissal on the Speedy Trial Act.
So finally, even if it were somehow discretionary and this Court were to consider in this case breaking from its unbroken precedent of 80 years -- let me give you one more example before I turn to the discretionary.
In the Walling case in 1947, this Court reached as an alternative ground the defendant's argument that there was insufficient evidence.
Now, that's sort of the quintessential un-cert-worthy question, but this Court felt required to reach it because the lower court had reached it and rejected it and the defendant had preserved it all along in that case.
And in the Union Pacific case in 2009 -- I can keep giving you citations.
But let me just say, even if it were discretionary, you would still want to reach it in this case, because at pages 18 and 19 of the Solicitor General's brief there are citations to a circuit split on this issue.
And the new Rule 45 hasn't made that go away for two reasons.
The first is because the Solicitor General's own argument now doesn't depend on Rule 45.
Instead, it's that the Speedy Trial Act on its own terms counts 10 business days, not simply calendar days.
And, second, there continue to be decisions after the amendment of Rule 45 in which lower courts have said that this provision means only 10 business days.
Let me give you one more citation, and forgive me for this because we didn't get to file a reply brief in this case on this issue.
But the Zabawa case, 2010 Westlaw, 307-5044, is a case in the Eastern District of Michigan last summer where the Government's own filing, which we looked at on PACER, asked the court to apply Tinklenberg and hold that subsection (F) meant only ten business days.
Justice Samuel Alito: If I could just come back to where you started before you go on to these additional points.
Your argument is that if the Government petitions for cert on one issue that's a legal issue on which there's a conflict in the circuits and the Respondent in a criminal case says that the -- asks to have the decision below affirmed on 15 other grounds, we -- and raises those in the bio, we take the case anyway, we are duty-bound to decide every one of those 15 grounds?
Mr. Fisher: You're not duty-bound to decide it, Justice Alito.
But I do think under this Court's precedent, at least, you have never reversed the decision below without reaching them.
So you may well affirm on the question presented or some one or two of those questions.
You may also dismiss the case as improvidently granted, which happens sometimes in these circumstances.
Of course, what ordinarily what would happen is when the cert -- when the ops was filed this Court would realize there was a serious obstacle to reaching the question and might well deny cert in the first place.
But as I said, there's no decision on this Court's books and certainly the Solicitor General hasn't appointed one where you've reversed and reinstated a conviction or, in fact, reversed and done anything to a Respondent in these circumstances.
Now, let me turn to the merits of the ten day argument and make a few points before I'm sure the Court might want to talk about the pretrial motions issue as well.
There's a few important points to make.
Now, remember, the Solicitor General has now basically abandoned the Sixth Circuit's view that Rule 45 automatically gets incorporated into the Speedy Trial Act and now they're making the making the argument that what Congress intended in the Speedy Trial Act was somehow for Rule 45 to operate as some background principle.
So that the meaning of the Act, I guess, would wax and wane according to what Rule 45 said.
Now, there's two versions of this argument.
I can't tell which it's making.
First it could be saying that what Congress meant when it passed subsection F in 1979 was that whatever the rule is in Rule 45 right now, that's what we expect to be applied.
Well, that can't possibly be the Solicitor General's argument because in 1979 Rule 45, consistent with the traditional rule, excluded weekends and holidays only for periods of less than seven days.
That wasn't changed until 1985.
So the Congress at the time, even if they had cared about Rule 45, wouldn't have, wouldn't have thought you counted, excluded weekends and holidays here.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why wouldn't Congress think, we have a bunch of statutes that have times and we have a bunch that don't and the ones that don't, they should be interpreted into the Federal rule, that Rule 45?
Mr. Fisher: I think the much more natural reading, Justice Ginsburg, in light of the traditional rule, which is not just cited in Am.
, please understand, this is a cannon of common law, traditional construction of time periods that goes back to Sutherland's treatise in 1904.
There's a Second Circuit case called Morasca in 1921, 277 F. 2727, I could cite you 20 or 30 state cases all up and down the last century.
So the common law rule has always been for periods of less than seven days -- I'm sorry, for periods of more than seven days, it's up to the legislature to expressly tell the court to exclude weekends and holidays.
And if you look at the U.S. Code, it's perfectly consistent with that common law understanding because when Congress wanted, such as in the Bail Reform Act, to exclude weekends and holidays from a ten day period, it expressly says so.
Now, we cited three or four examples in our brief.
Again, this is at page 40, 41 of our brief.
I could have cited 15 or 20.
So the U.S. Code is quite clear and I think the much more natural inference its that when Congress wanted to exclude weekends and holidays consistent with the traditional rule, it felt duty bound to say so in the U.S. Code, and when it hasn't, it wants simply calendar days -- now, if you want confirmation.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Under the 2009 amendment, Rule 45 includes statutes it didn't before and now it does?
Mr. Fisher: It does now, but two things are telling about the 2009 amendments.
The first is that when it switched to statutes, it reverted to counting calendar days.
Justice Antonin Scalia: You're not relying on the 2009--
Mr. Fisher: No.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --You don't say -- you say this was wrong when it was decided?
Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Regardless of the 2009?
Mr. Fisher: That's right, that's right.
But if you want to talk about Congressional intent, I don't think we have to even go there.
But, remember, after the -- in 2009 there's also a Federal law, the Technical Amendments Statutory Act made a hash of that.
But Congress went through, most recently about a year and a half ago, and amended various provisions of the U.S. Code according to whether it wanted weekends or holidays excluded or times enlarged, and it left this alone.
So I think every indicia of evidence you can look at from every possible angle shows that ten days meant ten days at the time of the trial, and that's enough to affirm the judgment.
The last point I'll make concerning--
Justice Samuel Alito: Congress thought about the Speedy Trial Act when it made those technical amendments, isn't it likely to have thought the courts had interpreted it as excluding the weekends up to that point?
Mr. Fisher: --No, my point, Justice Alito, is Congress didn't think of the Speedy Trial Act, it didn't do anything with the Speedy Trial Act.
Justice Samuel Alito: Didn't think about -- okay.
Mr. Fisher: Well, maybe we leave that where it was, but let me make one final point that I think is the clincher here.
Remember, we have not just this alternative argument, we have a second alternative argument, which is that the time in relation to Mr. Tinklenberg's competency hearing exceeded the 30 day provision in section 4247 in the Insanity Defense Reform Act.
Now, I don't think you have to get to that argument, you can simply affirm on the ten day issue, but, again, let's think about what the Solicitor General is arguing with respect to the ten day issue.
They're saying that Congress sub silentio, without saying anything at all in the Speedy Trial Act, somehow assumed that the time in subsection F would wax and wane according to this rule.
Well, if that's -- even though the rule didn't even apply to statutes at the time.
Well, if that's the case, then I don't think there's any basis for arguing that Congress would have had exactly the same assumption with respect to another Federal statute, that is the Insanity Defense Reform Act.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: And if we don't agree with you on your Rule 45 argument, you say we would have to reach this third argument, right?
Mr. Fisher: Yes.
So I think the only way -- somehow, you've accepted the Solicitor General's argument, which I don't think you can, but if you did accept it on merits, it runs headlong into our third argument, which the Solicitor General takes exactly the opposite position, which is, the Speedy Trial Act is its own self-contained universe that doesn't incorporate any other statutes or any other provisions of law.
Justice Samuel Alito: Well, why aren't they trying -- why isn't the effect of what you're doing to prompt us to dismiss this case that the petitioner has improvidently granted?
If we were to write an opinion that says that the -- the Sixth Circuit was wrong in its interpretation of subsection (f), and therefore, we're not going to get to -- and anything we then had to say about subsection (d) is just dictum, and that's the issue that we took the case to decide, why should we keep the case at all?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I think you would be very happy if we didn't.
Mr. Fisher: I think you could do that, Justice Ginsburg.
I think you could decide based on my discussion of the Zabawa case.
There's another case that postdates the rule 45 amendments, called Clifton, out of the Southern District of Mississippi.
So you might decide that there's enough of an ongoing question here to write an opinion.
You could do either one.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But then you would have to -- we would have to wait for another case to decide this issue, one which is a split, that is, the delay resulting from.
What does that mean?
Justice Anthony Kennedy: And I can't stand the suspense.
I -- I would like to hear about the delay point.
Mr. Fisher: Right.
And I think, Justice Ginsburg, as to your -- your question, I'll just leave it to this Court's best discretion how it wants to handle that issue.
Now, Justice Kennedy, let me turn to the merits.
We think this is a straightforward case where the text dictates the outcome of the case.
Remember, the key words in the statute are "delay resulting from", and I think the -- I think the ordinary meaning, in fact, the only meaning, of "delay" is a hindrance to progress or a postponement.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I'm sorry to interrupt you so early, but what about Justice Ginsburg's point, which I understood to be there's always delay resulting from these pretrial motions; it's just that the district judge takes that into account, says, well, I'm going to have a lot of the usual pretrial motions, so I'm going to set the trial date at this point.
So that is delay, when the trial date might otherwise have been set, resulting from these pretrial motions, and then the -- the statute goes on to tell you how you count that delay.
Mr. Fisher: --That's exactly our argument, Mr. Chief Justice.
Our argument is there's two ways you can have delay: One is by the trial date simply being moved to accommodate the motion.
The other -- and this is where we agree with what the Solicitor General said here today, as well as at page 38-39 of his opening brief -- delay can also, in the ordinary English language, mean that the trial date was originally set to accommodate the motions in the way you just described.
But what the Solicitor General is arguing for is something much more dramatic than that.
They are arguing for an exclusion of the time, even if trial date was set irregardless of the motions--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: How would you ever know that?
How would we ever know that, Mr. Fisher?
A trial judge that has had a lot of criminal cases knows that there's going to be some motions as you get closer to trial, but how would we know whether the judge -- this particular judge took into account the likelihood of motions in setting the trial date or didn't?
Mr. Fisher: --Well, ordinarily, Justice Ginsburg -- remember, this is only a small subset of cases.
But in those cases, ordinarily, I would think the trial judge would say on the record when the date is set.
Now, if it's -- if there's motion practice before there's any date that's ever set, the NACDL brief, I think, explains how that works in the district in the Sixth Circuit right now.
Parties often stipulate or are asked to stipulate by the court.
Common sense goes a long way in this scenario, Justice Ginsburg.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why -- why would the defendant stipulate?
Mr. Fisher: Pardon me?
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why would -- why would a defendant who would benefit from the clock running stipulate?
Mr. Fisher: Defendants don't always benefit from the clock running, Justice Ginsburg.
I think there's two reasons why they might stipulate.
One is because it might simply be obvious that the motion is of sufficient weight and difficulty that it's going to consume the court's resources, so why argue something that wouldn't have a basis to begin with?
But I think the NACDL brief is forthright in saying, at least at the beginning of criminal cases, often defendants find themselves wanting more time, and so, again, they don't have the incentive to argue against that.
Justice Samuel Alito: How do you reconcile your argument with the situation in which the motion is pending for 30 days, so that's the period from the filing until the prompt disposition, and as a result of that motion, the trial judge says this has caused -- this is going to force me, this is going to result in 10 days' delay in the date on which the case can begin, so the trial date is pushed back 10 days?
Now, in that situation, how much time is excluded?
Mr. Fisher: I think the -- the text of the statute allows you to say either 30 or 10.
I think in light of this Court's Henderson decision -- and perhaps I think Congress had administrability concerns in mind with that last clause -- I think 30 days could be excluded.
But if you disagree with me on that and you want to have a rigid textual reading of the statute resulting from only meaning 10 days, I think that's your only other option.
Because, if I could ask the Court, or at least direct the Court to page 6 of the Solicitor General's reply brief, this is where they give -- because I think what the government wants to do is pose these difficult hypotheticals, and the sort of difficult question you just raised, Justice Alito, and have this Court respond by saying, oh, we're just going to throw the words "delay resulting from" out of the statute.
Because there's only two definitions, two ways to deal with what the Solicitor General offers.
First, they say that delay means time, and I think ordinary -- in ordinary English language, "delay" means something more than time.
It means postponement.
So then the fallback argument -- this is the second paragraph on page 6 -- is that the occurrence that is postponed is the STA's deadline for commencing trial, and our suggestion is that that begs the whole question.
That can't possibly be right, because the whole reason that you're looking to subsection (d) to apply it is to ask whether you should exclude the time.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Excuse me, but isn't that what the statute says?
Meaning, if you look at (h), the beginning paragraph at (h), it says,
"The following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing the time within which the trial of any such offense must commence. "
It's not talking about the delay of the trial.
It's talking about the computation of the start date for the trial.
So if that's what that commands you to do, doesn't -- isn't only the Solicitor General's position consistent with that?
It's telling you to take the periods of delay and compute the date the trial must start by excluding those.
That's the language.
Mr. Fisher: I think for two reasons, I would disagree, respectfully, Justice Sotomayor.
First is, I take that language to say that we're going to now tell you all the circumstances under which you exclude time, and so if any of these subsections are satisfied, you exclude the time.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: That's the--
Mr. Fisher: --Solicitor General's argument is that you start from the premise.
"Delay resulting from" means you've already excluded the time.
That's the premise.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --Well, but that's what (h) says; (h) says you compute the start date of the trial, when it must start, by excluding all of these periods of delay.
It's defining it for you.
Mr. Fisher: Well, if -- if there was delay.
Maybe another example, Justice Sotomayor.
In subsection 7, which is at (4)(a) of the government's appendix, I think is another way of showing that it can't possibly -- even if it weren't begging the question, it can't possibly be right.
It has to be talking about the trial itself, because this is the continuance -- the end of the justice continuance section.
And it says,
"Any period of delay resulting from a continuance granted by a judge on his own motion. "
and blah, blah, blah, "if certain criteria are met".
Now, it's very clear that in that section, "period" -- "period of delay resulting from" can't mean that we've already said that the clock is stopped, because there's an "if" clause that gives you certain things that have to be satisfied in order to exclude it.
So I think starting with the very title of the Act we're talking about, the Speedy Trial Act, and the -- the idea of the words "delay resulting from" can only sensibly mean delay resulting from trial.
And so I think the definition that we've given you again, which is, delay results from a trial if the trial itself is postponed, or if the trial is set in a way that accommodates the motion, is the only way to give meaning to the operative words in the statute.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: So it doesn't matter how substantial and important a motion is, whether it was your motion to dismiss for Speedy Trial Act reasons or the administrative motions here that you say really didn't require time?
It doesn't matter; all that matters is keeping track from day one, the commencement of the trial, as to when the Court is about to set the trial date, that it does it at the end of all the motions.
That's the only time the court can do it.
Mr. Fisher: The distinction between administrative and nonadministrative motions, I think, doesn't matter in this case because trial wasn't--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Why wouldn't it matter?
Mr. Fisher: --Well, it would matter, I think, Justice Sotomayor, in a circumstance where the trial date hadn't been set yet and then was set, and an argument might arise -- well, I think we've had this dialogue already to some degree.
I didn't -- I expected these kinds of motions to be filed.
I knew there was going to be a suppression hearing.
We had the whole -- therefore, I set the trial out.
That would seem to be saying this was a nonadministrative matter that I had to accommodate.
I don't think a trial judge -- put another way, I don't think a trial judge could say I'm setting trial date outside the 70-day deadline because I had to sign my name to that pro haec vice motion.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Well, actually it happens all the time.
In the "rocket docket" in Virginia, the court sets a trial date, and you file whatever motions you're going to file.
Under your theory, until that last motion actually delays the trial date, none of those motions exclude time.
Mr. Fisher: That may well be correct, but I don't know why it would matter, because it doesn't matter until you get outside of the 70 days to begin with.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: It matters because the trial judges have to know what to do, and while your reading might fit the language in ordinary English better, I think it does.
It's also possible to read those words "delay resulting from" as simply referring to a period of time; and the statute is saying these periods of time are excluded from accounting.
Now, the virtue of that is just what Justice Ginsburg started with; all the trial judges know how to do it; the lawyers don't get mixed up; and the problem with what you're arguing for, in my mind -- if you want to say anything more about it, do -- is that it seems very unworkable to strike trying to figure out what causes what.
Mr. Fisher: --Let me say a couple things, Justice Breyer.
First, with all due respect, I have to disagree with your premise that it's possible to read the statute the way the Solicitor General wants to read it.
Now I'll accept for purposes of responding to your question, let's imagine that it were possible to read it that way.
I think our rule is not as difficult to administer as you think it might be in the -- NACDL brief LDY.
And indeed the Solicitor General -- this has been the -- this has been the law in -- in the Sixth Circuit for 17 months.
They haven't pointed to a single dismissal as a result of it.
Now let me take the other side, and this brings us to the dialogue during Mr. Roberts' argument; the Solicitor General's rule isn't so easy, either, unless you simply cease caring at all about the Act.
You could have a perfectly administrable rule that says every singly motion, no matter what the circumstances, tolls the clock.
But that's not the law in the First Circuit, for example.
They're made clear as Justice Sotomayor said that if a motion is filed to frustrate the speedy trial clock, then we're not going to exclude it; and that makes perfect sense.
I mean, look at this case.
And I'm not going to suggest there was any ill will or bad faith in this case; but the facts of the case illustrate the problem.
On August 1st, trial date was set for August 14th.
There were 14 days before the trial was going to happen.
Yet there were only -- even under the best reading there were only 10 days left on the clock.
So if no motions had been filed, unquestionably we would have a Speedy Trial Act violation.
So the government's whole case hinges on the fact that because it filed this purely administrative motion to bring a gun into the courtroom, a motion I might add that at the pretrial conference the judge had already told the government was going to be granted, and so I don't know why it couldn't have been made at the moment the evidence was introduced; and one other administration motion, then the Speedy Trial Act isn't violated.
And to borrow the Solicitor General's own phrase from page 38 of his brief, that outcome bears no relation to the Act's purpose.
So what you have to do to have, I think, the government's argument be at all faithful, even if it were possible under the language -- have it be at all faithful with the purpose of the Act, is to have some kind of exception for motions that frustrate, motions that are pretextual, motions that are purely administrative, however it would be defined.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why do you think that--
Mr. Fisher: And you walk in--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --your motion -- I mean, the government had administrative motions, but you had a Speedy Trial Act motion; and you say that doesn't count, either?
Mr. Fisher: --I -- well, two things, Justice Ginsburg.
First of all, we're not relying in this Court on the Speedy Trial Act motion to get us to the Speedy Trial Act violation.
The two motions the government filed get you to the 70 days, and so we haven't made an argument with respect to the Speedy Trial Act.
But if we had to, the argument would be -- with regard to that motion, would be that it didn't delay trial.
Trial had already been set, the Court said this is when we're going to trial; trial wasn't moved, and we all went to trial.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, I don't believe I had a trial in my district court days where between the time I had the pretrial conference and the time trial started, there wasn't a slew of motions, because that's about the time counsel tends to wake up.
Mr. Fisher: --Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Okay?
And -- and decide that really now they've got to get ready.
Mr. Fisher: Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Why should we care whether it's an administrative motion or simply to clarify the functioning of the trial?
Why should we not exclude those times, because those -- those motions, whether they're administrative or not, will cause the trial to go faster, because issues that would otherwise consume the time of the court during trial are being resolved before trial.
Mr. Fisher: I think that might be an argument for writing the Speedy Trial Act a different way, Justice Sotomayor; but if the question is whether the motion delayed trial -- and that's the question that the Speedy Trial Act requires the judge to ask and answer -- then the administrative piece of paper going across the judge's desk when the judge knows ahead of time it isn't going to cause any difficult, simply doesn't delay trial.
At page, I believe it's 5 or 6 of the NACDL brief, they talk about pretrial conferences.
And they say what happens in the Sixth Circuit right now is the judge holds the conference; as you say, counsel wakes up; and everybody -- and the judge says tell me the motions you're going to file.
And the counsel from both sides tell the judge what motions are going to be filed, and they discuss right then and there whether they're going to delay -- whether they're going to cause some delay for trial.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Mr. Fisher -- delay, you make an argument about the meaning of delay.
I am troubled by the meaning of the
"from the filing of the motion. "
of that clause.
You read that, I think, to mean delay resulting from any pretrial moment and not to exceed -- right -- the period from the filing of the filing of the motion to the conclusion of the hearing.
Isn't that right?
Mr. Fisher: --I think that's right, and I think that's--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Well, where do you -- where to you get that "not to exceed"?
It doesn't say not to exceed; it says delay resulting from the filing of the motion.
Mr. Fisher: --I think the difficulty is with the word "from", Justice Scalia.
I think it's a tough word to know exactly what transition is taking place there, but in this Court's Bloate decision, last term, I think -- what I'm -- the argument I'm making is perfectly consistent with that decision, where it said the "from clause" is sort of the boundaries on when subsection D applies.
If you're talking about delay that a motion caused either after the hearing or before the filing, we don't want to hear from you.
But the from clause tells you if the delay falls within those two goalposts, then it's excludable.
Justice Antonin Scalia: It's a funny way to say it.
It's a funny way to say it.
Mr. Fisher: I don't think it's a perfect way to say it, either, Justice Scalia.
And I said -- in my dialogue with Justice Alito, I think that you could also say, especially with a little bit of pushing on Henderson, that "resulting from" actually gives you a specific time period in between those that you have to exclude.
But I think that that's the best reading of the Act, and again, it's the only one that gives -- that gives meaning to the phrase delay resulting from.
If I might just say one or two words to circle back to where I began, Mr. Tinklenberg urges you to affirm the Sixth Circuit decision or to dismiss this case as improvidently granted; but what he urges you not to do and thinks there's no basis in precedent for doing, which is to reverse the lower court without reading the alternative arguments; and with all due respect, the 10-day argument that we preserved in our bio and we fully made in our bottom side brief in this case, I think is extraordinarily strong, and it's difficult to get around in this case for all the reasons I've explained.
So with that, I'll -- I'll answer any other questions this Court has about that argument, because I think it's very important.
Otherwise, I'm happy to submit the case.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Roberts, you have 3 minutes remaining.
REBUTTAL ARGUMENT OF MATTHEW D. ROBERTS ON BEHALF OF PETITIONER
Mr. Roberts: Thank you, Your Honor.
First I would like to stress that the government thinks that it's very important that the Court address the question that we raised in our cert petition, and that the Court granted certiorari to answer, on which there's a split in the circuits and which we believe that if it's left standing will result in serious disruption to the Speedy Trial Act.
Turning to -- to that question, a few points first.
Respondent's definition of delay is plainly inconsistent with Henderson which already holds that the period of delay that's excludable is the time between the filing of the motion and the disposition of the motion.
That can't be squared with the notion that delay is the period during which trial is postponed.
Second, Respondent's definition of delay gives delay a different meaning in the first part of the statute and in subsection D, where this Court's already held that it has the meaning that we suggest.
Third, Respondent's test is totally unworkable, because you can't tell at the time a motion is filed how much time it's going to take to resolve and whether trial is going to be postponed.
District Court judges have over 500 pending cases on their docket, an average District Court judge.
A hundred of them are criminal.
The court -- the Speedy Trial Act cannot function if the judges are going to have to make a complex judicial determination in each case to determine whether each motion is excludable.
Respondent says that NACDL says defendants won't object or that they'll stipulate to the exclusion of time, but NACDL also says that defendants may change their mind if the case goes to trial, and if they change their mind and file a motion to dismiss under the Speedy Trial Act, their prior failures to object and stipulations may very well not be binding because this Court held in Zedner that defendants can prospectively waive the application of the Act.
And Respondent's tests would also throw the established way that the Speedy Trial Act has been operating for over 30 years into disarray.
Turning to whether this Court has to address the alternative arguments for affirmance, Nobles plainly says that the Court has discretion not to address those issues if those issues are not independently worthy of certiorari.
It doesn't base that on the fact that the -- on the fact that the argument would expand the judgment below, and the rule that it's discretionary makes sense, because the contrary rule would require the court to address numerous issues that are not important and -- in every case where they're raised, and would also lead the court to either dismiss writs as improvidently granted or to address only as dicta important issues on which the Court has granted certiorari.
Justice Samuel Alito: So given the choice between a dismissal and an affirmance with good dictum about subsection (d), you would prefer the latter?
Mr. Roberts: --Yes, I think that we would like the Court to address the issue on which cert was granted.
We think it's a very important issue.
We think that the courts of appeals would follow it even if it might technically be viewed as dicta.
We would think that it would be an alternative holding or ratio decidendi.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, Counsel.
The case is submitted.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The first one, United States v. Tinklenberg involves the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, which requires that a criminal trial begins 70 days after the arraignment.
It then list a long set of exclusions from that 70-day count, so you have to have seventy non-excludable days.
Now, one of those exclusions -- is "a delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of such motions," so it says, don't suppose to exclude it, you get an extra plus the 70-days plus.
In this case, the Court of Appeals from the Sixth Circuit found that the 3(d) Act of -- the Speedy Trial Act was violated.
There had more than seventy non-excludable days had passed.
Hence, but in doing that, it counted, that means it didn't exclude several critical days following certain pretrial motions, and falling within the period "from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on or other prompt disposition of the motion".
Now, the Circuit reasoned that the particular pretrial motions at issue did not cause a delay in the beginning of Tinklenberg's trial.
The trial began just for -- and it would've begun without the pretrial motions, and the Court said that matters because the statutory language excludes only "delay resulting from pretrial motions."
If there is no delay at recent, there is no exclusion.
In our view however, the words "delay resulting from" which are present at the beginning of almost every statutory phrase that announces an exclusion, do not require nor do they permit a judge to decide in each particular case whether a pretrial motion did, or did not in fact delay the beginning of the trial.
Rather, Congress did the deciding here.
It believed that the circumstances listed in the exclusion do normally cause delay, and it intended the periods of time specified in the exclusion before us following a pretrial motion to apply automatically, irrespective of whether the motion does or does not postpone the particular trial at issue in a particular case.
Now, we base that conclusion on the language of the statute, read in full context, and interpreted in light of its structure and purposes.
And we note that the Sixth Circuit's contrary interpretation would make the statute much more difficult for trial judges to administer.
We also note that for the past several decades, all other circuits have interpreted the statute as we interpret it today.
Now, we go on to decide another issue, even though the respondent Jason Tinklenberg losses his argument about excluding pretrial motion days, he wins an offsetting claim.
He points out that the statute excludes days used to transport defendants to medical exams, but it says you can't exclude more than ten of those.
But he will have more days spent transporting, and interpreting how many days in excess of ten were spent transporting Tinklenberg, days that were not excludable from the Speedy Trial Act 70-day count, add them on.
The Court did not count weekend days and holidays.
Well, I don't know why they didn't, we say.
And we agree with Tinklenberg that those weekend days and holidays are not excludable and they should count as part of the seventy days non-excludable days which passed before he went to trial.
So Tinklenberg consequently wins his basic claim that the Speedy Trial Act was violated.
We explain all these more thoroughly in our opinion.
As I said, we disagree with two separate aspects of what the Court of Appeals decided, that those two determinations that we find erroneous in a sense, cancel each other out.
And we consequently affirm the Court of Appeals ultimate finding of the Speedy Trial Act violation.
Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment in which the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas have joined.
Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.