HENDERSON v. UNITED STATES(1986)

 

No. 84-1744

Argued: April 1, 1986Decided: May 19, 1986

The Speedy Trial Act (Act) commands that a defendant be tried within 70 days of the latest of either the filing of an indictment or information, or the first appearance before a judge or magistrate. However, a provision of the Act, 18 U.S.C. 3161(h)(1)(F) (hereafter subsection (F)), excludes from this time “[a]ny period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, 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.” With regard to petitioners, who were ultimately convicted in Federal District Court of charges relating to the manufacture, possession, and distribution of controlled substances, the Act’s 70-day period commenced on September 3, 1980, but the trial did not begin until November 1, 1982, because of various delays, including those resulting from overlapping filings by petitioners and the Government with respect to a motion to suppress certain evidence, a hearing and posthearing submissions by the parties on that motion, petitioners’ motion for reconsideration of the court’s denial of the motion to suppress, and petitioners’ motion to dismiss the indictment because of violation of the Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed petitioners’ convictions, rejecting their contention that under subsection (F) only delays that were “reasonably necessary” could be excluded from the Act’s 70-day period.

Held:

    • 1. Congress intended subsection (F) to exclude from the Act’s 70-day limitation all time between the filing of a pretrial motion and the conclusion of the hearing on that motion, whether or not a delay in holding that hearing is “reasonably necessary.” The plain terms of the statute exclude all time between the filing of and the hearing on a motion, whether that hearing was prompt or not. Moreover, Congress’ express use of the phrase “reasonable period of delay” in another provision of the statute indicates that the exclusion of the period defined in subsection (F) was intended to be automatic. The legislative history also supports this reading of subsection (F). Nor does the phrase “or other prompt disposition” in subsection (F) imply that only reasonably necessary delays may be excluded between the time of filing

[476 U.S. 321, 322]   

    and the conclusion of the hearing. That language was intended to apply to situations where motions are decided on the papers filed without a hearing. Pp. 326-330.
    2. Subsection (F) also excludes time after a hearing on a motion where the District Court awaits additional filings from the parties that are needed for proper disposition of the motion. Although the language of the statute is not clear on this point, its structure requires that such time be excluded. Pp. 330-331.
    3. Under the facts in this case, there were only 69 nonexcludable days of delay before petitioners’ trial, and therefore the Act was not violated. Pp. 331-333.

746 F.2d 619, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J., and REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O’CONNOR, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 333.

Denise Anton argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were Alex Reisman and Paul G. Sloan.

Roger Clegg argued the cause for the United States. On the brief were Solicitor General Fried, Assistant Attorney General Trott, Deputy Solicitor General Frey, Charles A. Rothfeld, and Patty Merkamp Stemler.

JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. 3161 et seq. (1982 ed. and Supp. II), as amended in 1979 and in 1984, commands that a defendant be tried within 70 days of the latest of either the filing of an indictment or information, or the first appearance before a judge or magistrate. Section 3161(h)(1)(F) excludes from this time “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.” This case requires us to decide the narrow questions whether that exclusion is limited to reasonably necessary delays, and whether it applies to delays occasioned by the filing of posthearing briefs on motions.

I

A jury convicted petitioners of charges arising out of manufacture, possession, and distribution of controlled substances.   [476 U.S. 321, 323]   The evidence at trial showed that in February and April 1980 petitioner Henderson, under the alias “Richard Martin,” placed orders with a scientific supply company in Ohio for chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of illegal drugs. The orders attracted the attention of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Agents obtained a warrant from a United States Magistrate, authorizing installation of an electronic transmitter in one of the chemical containers. Henderson drove from California to Ohio, picked up the second order of chemicals on June 24, and headed west. Agents lost the tracking signal despite their following by both car and plane, only to receive it later in July from petitioner Freedman’s house near Watsonville, California. A search pursuant to warrant on July 17 revealed an illicit drug factory. The last of the codefendants, Peter Bell, was arraigned on September 3, 1980. 

The Speedy Trial Act requires that trial begin within 70 days of the latest indictment, information, or appearance – in this case, September 3. 18 U.S.C. 3161(c)(1). A timely trial would have commenced on November 12, 1980, barring periods of excludable delay. Overlapping filings by petitioners and the Government, however, kept a suppression motion pending from its filing on November 3, 1980, through a hearing [476 U.S. 321, 324]   on that motion on March 25, 1981. The court deferred decision on the motion pending receipt of posthearing submissions from the parties, the last of which was filed on December 15, 1981. See App. 29-31. The District Court finally denied the motion to suppress on January 19, 1982.

From January 25 to May 10, 1982, both parties filed additional motions before the District Court – on January 25 the Government moved to set the case for trial, and on March 23 petitioners moved to reconsider the motion to suppress. On February 3, the court held a hearing on the Government’s motion and granted a continuance through April 21 to allow defense counsel to file a motion for reconsideration of the order denying the suppression motion. After a hearing on May 10, the court denied petitioners’ motion to reconsider the motion to suppress, and set a trial date of September 13, 1982. The court also entered an order excluding, for purposes of the Act, the time from May 10 to September 13 based on a provision of the Act that allows such exclusion by the Court to satisfy the “ends of justice.” Id., at 32-33; see 18 U.S.C. 3161(h)(8)(A).   [476 U.S. 321, 325]  

On July 23, 1982, Thornton filed a motion to dismiss the superseding indictment for violation of the Speedy Trial Act. The other two petitioners subsequently joined this motion. The District Judge held a hearing almost two months later, on September 8, and denied the motion from the bench on that date. He filed a memorandum and order outlining his reasons exactly 30 days later. At that time, the judge also entered an order excluding the time from October 8 to November 1, again based on the “interests of justice.” 3 Record, Doc. Nos. 98-99. Trial commenced on November 1, 1982.

Petitioners appealed their convictions, arguing, inter alia, that the District Court could exclude from their Speedy Trial Act computation only delays that were “reasonably necessary.” 746 F.2d 619, 622 (CA9 1984). The Court of Appeals held that the statute “excludes delays resulting from pretrial motions without qualification.” Ibid. The court noted that Congress had explicitly provided that the excludability of certain other delays depended on their reasonableness, but had not done so for delays from pretrial motions. Ibid. Judge Ferguson dissented, relying on the Act’s legislative history and the interpretations of other Circuits. Id., at 625-626. We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict among the Circuits.   474 U.S. 900 (1985). We now affirm. [476 U.S. 321, 326]  

II

The Speedy Trial Act requires that a criminal trial must commence within 70 days of the latest of a defendant’s indictment, information, or appearance, barring periods of excludable delay. United States v. Rojas-Contreras, 474 U.S. 231 (1985); see 18 U.S.C. 3161(c)(1). Section 3161(h) (1)(F) (subsection (F)) excludes from these 70 days certain delays occasioned by the filing of pretrial motions:

    “(h) The following periods of delay shall be excluded in computing the time within which an information or an indictment must be filed, or in computing the time within which the trial of any such offense must commence:
    “(1) Any period of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not limited to –
    . . . . .
    “(F) 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” (emphasis added).

A

On its face, subsection (F) excludes “[a]ny period of delay” caused by “any pretrial motion,” “from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing.” The plain terms of the statute appear to exclude all time between the filing of and the hearing on a motion whether that hearing was prompt or not. Moreover, subsection (F) does not require [476 U.S. 321, 327]   that a period of delay be “reasonable” to be excluded, although Congress clearly knew how to limit an exclusion: in 3161(h)(7), Congress provided for exclusion of a “reasonable period of delay when the defendant is joined for trial with a codefendant as to whom the time for trial has not run and no motion for severance has been granted.” Apart from this single instance, every other provision in 3161(h) provides for exclusion of “any period of delay.” The provision excludes, for example, all of the time consumed by an interlocutory appeal, 3161(h)(1)(E), by a competency examination, 3161(h)(1)(A), and by the defendant’s unavailability, 3161(h)(3)(A). As the Court of Appeals concluded: “The difference between (7) and (1) through (6) is a strong indication that exclusion of the periods defined in (1)-(6) was intended to be automatic.” 746 F.2d, at 622.

The legislative history of the 1979 Amendments to the Act supports this reading of subsection (F). That history shows that Congress was aware of the breadth of the exclusion it was enacting in subsection (F). The Senate Judiciary Committee [476 U.S. 321, 328]   acknowledged that “if basic standards for prompt consideration of pretrial motions are not developed,” the liberalized 1979 Amendments to subsection (F) “could become a loophole which could undermine the whole Act.” S. Rep. No. 96-212, p. 34 (1979). In its subsequent consideration of subsection (F), the House of Representatives did not qualify the exclusion in any way or limit such potential abuse by statute. Instead the House adopted the Senate’s version “with the intention that potentially excessive and abusive use of this exclusion be precluded by district or circuit guidelines, rules, or procedures relating to motions practice.” H. R. Rep. No. 96-390, p. 10 (1979). Congress clearly envisioned that any limitations should be imposed by circuit or district court rules rather than by the statute itself. Such rules, developed pursuant to 3166(f), should provide the assurance of a speedy disposition of pretrial motions.

Petitioners largely concede these arguments and advance two other contentions for limiting subsection (F)’s exclusion to time that is “reasonably necessary” for the disposition of pretrial motions. First, they contend that the phrase “other prompt disposition” within subsection (F) implies that a district court may not unreasonably delay a criminal trial by deferring a hearing on a pretrial motion. Two of the Courts of Appeals that have limited the exclusion in subsection (F) to delays that are “reasonably necessary” have relied on this argument. United States v. Janik, 723 F.2d 537, 543 (CA7 1983); United States v. Cobb, 697 F.2d 38, 41-42 (CA2 1982). But a reading of subsection (F) in connection with 3161 (h)(1)(J) (subsection (J)), which allows exclusion of up to 30 [476 U.S. 321, 329]   days while the district court has a motion “under advisement,” i. e., 30 days from the time the court receives all the papers it reasonably expects, undermines this conclusion. The phrase “prompt disposition” was intended to prevent a district court from using subsection (F) to exclude time after a motion is taken under advisement when that time fails to qualify for exclusion under subsection (J).

Subsection (F), written in the disjunctive, excludes time in two situations. The first arises when a pretrial motion requires a hearing: subsection (F) on its face excludes the entire period between the filing of the motion and the conclusion of the hearing. The second situation concerns motions that require no hearing and that result in a “prompt disposition.” There, the promptness requirement was “intended to provide a point at which time will cease to be excluded, where motions are decided on the papers filed without hearing.” S. Rep. No. 96-212, at 34. The “point at which time will cease to be excluded” is identified by subsection (J), which permits an exclusion of 30 days from the time a motion is actually “under advisement” by the court. Without the promptness requirement in subsection (F), a court could exclude time beyond subsection (J)’s 30-day “under advisement” provision simply by designating the additional period as time “from the filing of the motion” through its “disposition” under subsection (F). As the Senate Committee on the Judiciary explained:

    “In using the words `prompt disposition’, the committee intends to make it clear that, in excluding time between filing and disposition on the papers, the Committee does not intend to permit circumvention of the 30-days, `under advisement’ provision contained in Subsection (h)(1)(J). Indeed, if motions are so simple or routine that they do not require a hearing, necessary advisement time should be considerably less than 30 days.” Ibid.

We therefore conclude that for pretrial motions that require a hearing, the phrase “or other prompt disposition” in subsection [476 U.S. 321, 330]   (F) does not imply that only “reasonably necessary” delays may be excluded between the time of filing of a motion and the conclusion of the hearing thereon.

Petitioners’ second argument rests on the sentence that immediately follows the extract quoted above: “Nor does the Committee intend that additional time be made eligible for exclusion by postponing the hearing date or other disposition of the motions beyond what is reasonably necessary.” Ibid. (emphasis added). Four Courts of Appeals have relied on this legislative history to support their “reasonably necessary” qualification in subsection (F). United States v. Ray, 768 F.2d 991, 998 (CA8 1985); United States v. Mitchell, 723 F.2d 1040, 1047 (CA1 1983); United States v. Novak, 715 F.2d 810, 819 (CA3 1983), cert. denied sub nom. Ware v. United States, 465 U.S. 1030 (1984); United States v. Cobb, 697 F.2d 38, 44 (CA2 1982).

Any qualification of subsection (F)’s exclusion based on this sentence, which appears in the paragraph discussing motions decided without a hearing, would be at odds with the plain language of the statute. It also would be contrary to other passages contained in both the House and Senate Reports that specifically concern the “hearings” provision of subsection (F). See supra, at 327-328. We therefore decline to read into subsection (F) a “reasonably necessary” qualification based on this single sentence from the Senate Report. We instead hold that Congress intended subsection (F) to exclude from the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day limitation all time between the filing of a motion and the conclusion of the hearing on that motion, whether or not a delay in holding that hearing is “reasonably necessary.”

B

The remaining issue is whether subsection (F) excludes time after a hearing on a motion but before the district court receives all the submissions by counsel it needs to decide that motion. Cf. 3161(h)(1) (excluding “[a]ny period of delay resulting [476 U.S. 321, 331]   from other proceedings concerning the defendant”). Although the language of subsection (F) is not clear on this point, we are convinced that its structure, as well as reason, requires that such time be excluded.

The provisions of the Act are designed to exclude all time that is consumed in placing the trial court in a position to dispose of a motion. See, e. g., S. Rep. No. 96-212, at 9-10. District courts often find it impossible to resolve motions on which hearings have been held until the parties have submitted posthearing briefs or additional factual materials, especially where the motion presents complicated issues. It would not have been sensible for Congress to exclude automatically all the time prior to the hearing on a motion and 30 days after the motion is taken under advisement, but not the time during which the court remains unable to rule because it is awaiting the submission by counsel of additional materials. Moreover, for motions decided solely on the papers, Congress has allowed exclusion of time during which the parties are filing their briefs. 18 U.S.C. 3161(h)(1)(F), (J); see supra, at 328-329. It is consistent with this exclusion to exclude time when the court awaits the briefs and materials needed to resolve a motion on which a hearing has been held – motions that the Senate Judiciary Committee recognized as typically more difficult than motions decided on the papers. See S. Rep. No. 96-212, at 34. We therefore hold that subsection (F) excludes time after a hearing has been held where a district court awaits additional filings from the parties that are needed for proper disposition of the motion.

III

We now calculate the number of nonexcludable days before petitioners’ trial. The Act began to run on September 3, 1980, the date of arraignment of codefendant Bell. On October 22, 1980, the District Court entered – with the consent of the parties – a continuance through November 12. The District Court excluded that continuance from the Speedy Trial [476 U.S. 321, 332]   Act’s 70-day limit under 3161(h)(8)(A) in “the interest of justice.” App. 26-27; see 746 F.2d, at 623-624. That exclusion is not challenged in this Court.

The motion to suppress was filed during this continuance, on November 3, 1980. App. 27. The hearing on this and subsequent motions was held on March 25, 1981. Id., at 28. This time is automatically excludable under 3161(h)(1)(F). The court declined to reach a final decision on the suppression motion at that hearing because it needed further information. Id., at 28-29. The court did not receive all filings in connection with the motion until December 15, 1981, when the Government submitted its response to petitioners’ memorandum and request for an evidentiary hearing. Id., at 31. That time is also excludable, plus 30 days for the District Court to take the matter under advisement. We therefore exclude the period from March 25, 1981, through January 14, 1982.

On January 25, 1982, the Government filed a motion to set the case for trial, noticed for February 3. We need not decide whether this time is excludable under subsection (F) as it does not affect the disposition of this case. On February 3, the court continued the case until April 21, to afford defense counsel the opportunity to file a motion to reconsider the suppression ruling. Ibid. The District Court subsequently found that this time was excludable under 3161(h)(8)(A) as a continuance necessary for the “interests of justice.” Id., at 34. 10 On March 23, petitioners filed their motion for reconsideration. Under subsection (F), an exclusion for this pending motion ran from March 23 until the disposition by hearing on May 10. See App. 33. At that time, the court stated that it would exclude under 3161(h)(8)(A) the time from May 10 to September 13, the new trial date, because of the difficulty of coordinating the schedules of five defense attorneys. The court entered a similar order on September 13 [476 U.S. 321, 333]   that extended through the ultimate trial date of November 1, 1982. Neither of those orders is properly before us. As the case stands here, it presents 69 nonexcludable days of delay, and therefore the Speedy Trial Act was not violated. 11 

IV

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is affirmed.