United States v. Pocklington, No. 13-50461 (McKeown with Kleinfeld and M. Smith) --- The Ninth Circuit held that a district court lacks jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3565(c) to retroactively revoke probation after the probation term expires if a warrant or summons is not issued during the probation term, and thus reversed a revocation of probation entered 11 months after the term expired.
The defendant was serving a two-year probation term for bankruptcy fraud. One of his creditors notified the probation office that he had undisclosed assets. Probation in turn notified the district court about the letter, but saw no violation. The district court saw things differently, and directed the probation office to investigate. A week before the probation term expired, the district court issued an "order to show cause," which led to a hearing on whether the probation term should be extended. That hearing was held five days after the probation term expired. Ultimately the probation office's investigation revealed that the defendant had not truthfully disclosed all of his assets, and 11 months after the probation term expired, the district court revoked it and sentenced the defendant to six months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. The defendant did not object to the district court's actions on jurisdictional grounds.
Nevertheless, because subject-matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time, the court of appeals was obligated to address it. The relevant statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3565(c), says that the "power of the court to revoke a sentence of probation" can be extended after the term otherwise expires only if a "warrant or summons" is issued during the probation term. This couldn't be any clearer about the district court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Nor was there any "warrant or summons" filed within the probation term. The probation office was clear that there wasn't probable cause to issue a warrant, and its request that the court extend the probation term wasn't the same thing as a judge issuing a warrant or summons. The court thus reversed the revocation and resulting sentence.
The decision is here: