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United States v. Roberson

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 28, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY ROBERSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joan B. Gottschall United States District Judge

         In 2012, Gary Roberson completed serving a 120-month sentence for bank robbery and a related offense. As part of his sentence, he was also ordered to pay approximately $82, 000 in restitution. (Am. J. 6, ECF No. 240.) That amount has ballooned to over $100, 000 since his sentence was imposed. Roberson, who represents he has recently opened his own small business refurbishing bathtubs and tile, has asked the court to limit or waive the interest. The government argues that no statute gives the court the power, that is, the jurisdiction, to waive or limit interest on restitution once a criminal judgment has been entered. Applying the Seventh Circuit's decision in United States v. Goode, 342 F.3d 741(7th Cir. 2003), the court determines that 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k) grants it that power when a defendant experiences a “material change in . . . economic circumstances.”

         I. Background

         Roberson pleaded guilty to a two-count superseding indictment charging him with bank robbery, see 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d), and brandishing a firearm in connection with that crime, see id. § 924(c)(1)(A). The court ultimately imposed consecutive sentences on the two counts totaling 120 months; two concurrent, five-year terms of supervised release; and $82, 908 in restitution to be paid in a lump sum. (Am. J. 6, 7, ECF No. 240.) A note in the “special instructions” section of Roberson's amended judgment provides that “restitution and special assessment obligation shall be made payable with 10% of defendant's net monthly income.” (Id. at 7.) Roberson was released from prison on September 3, 2012, and began serving his term of supervised release.

         Roberson filed a motion on August 29, 2016, asking the court to terminate his supervised release early. In that motion, he cites 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k), and asks the court to limit his restitution to 10% of his net income and “no interest payments accruing on the restitution amount.” (ECF No. 267 at 5.) At a hearing on the motion held September 7, 2016, the court granted Roberson's request for early termination of his supervised release. The government asserted that this court lacked jurisdiction to limit Roberson's interest payments, and the court set a schedule to brief the question. After considering the parties' memoranda, the court concludes that it has jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k) to adjust a defendant's interest payments prospectively after entry of judgment.

         II. This Court has Jurisdiction to Relieve a Defendant Prospectively of Interest on Restitution under 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k)

         Roberson repeatedly asserts that the interest that has accrued on the amount of restitution he owes is “unauthorized.” (Mot. Early Termination & Limit Restitution 5, ECF. No. 267.) But, as it did when Roberson was sentenced, 18 U.S.C. § 3162(f)(1) makes payment of interest mandatory when the fine or restitution amount exceeds $2, 500. 18 U.S.C. § 3612(f)(1) (2006) (“The defendant shall pay interest on any fine or restitution of more than $2, 500, unless the fine is paid in full before the fifteenth day after the date of the judgment.”); see id. § 3612(f)(2) (prescribing method for computing interest). The parties devote the bulk of their briefing to the question of whether § 3612(f)(3), which permits the court to waive or limit interest “[i]f the court determines that the defendant does not have the ability to pay interest, ” gives this court jurisdiction to adjust the interest on restitution postjudgment. Courts have divided on this question and the proper interpretation of the Seventh Circuit's decision in United States v. Goode, 342 F.3d 741(7th Cir. 2003). Compare, e.g., United States v. Brumfield, 125 F.Supp.3d 648, 651-52 (W.D. Mich. 2015) (collecting and discussing cases and concluding that the majority of district courts have held that § 3612(f)(3) confers no postjudgment jurisdiction), with United States v. Perez, No. 90-CR-546, 2008 WL 4865992 (N.D. Ill. July 1, 2008), (“Some non-binding opinions and Seventh Circuit dicta notwithstanding, this Court sees no language that precludes post-sentencing reconsideration of interest under the authority of § 3612.”). While the parties have collected an impressive array of cases addressing § 3612(f)(3), this court's reading of Goode leads it to conclude that it has jurisdiction to modify Roberson's interest payments postjudgment under 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k), which Roberson cites in his motion.[1] See infra at 4-5 (setting forth full text of subsection). The cases on which the parties rely construing § 3612(f)(3) do not discuss § 3664(k). See, e.g., Brumfield, 125 F.Supp.3d at 651-52; United States v. Benjamin, Criminal No. DKC 96-0217, 2011 WL 3821534, at *2-3 (D. Md. Aug. 26, 2011).

         In Goode, the Seventh Circuit considered a district court's postjudgment jurisdiction to adjust interest on a fine. 342 F.3d 741 (7th Cir. 2003). The district court sentenced the defendant to pay three $5, 000 fines and to serve a total of 327 months in prison. Id. at 742. While still in custody, the defendant petitioned to clarify, remit, or suspend his obligations to pay interest on the fines, arguing that he made installment payments on the fines and that paying interest saddled him with an unfair financial burden. See id. at 742-43.

         The Goode court began its analysis by determining whether the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at 743. “Once a court sentences a criminal defendant, it has jurisdiction to continue hearing related issues only when authorized by statute or rule.” Id. (citing Carlisle v. United States, 517 U.S. 416, (1996)). The Goode court rejected several possible grounds for jurisdiction. See id. The defendant filed his petition too late to correct a judgment under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(a), and he sought substantive relief, not to correct a clerical error within the meaning of Rule 36. Id. (citations omitted). Because he challenged his fine, as contrasted with the fact or duration of his custody, he could not proceed under the federal habeas corpus substitute, 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Id. (citing Barnickel v. United States, 113 F.3d 704, 706 (7th Cir. 1997)). Finally, because “only the Government may petition for remission [of a fine] under 18 U.S.C. § 3573, ” that statute did not vest the district court with the power to consider the defendant's request. Id. (citing United States v. Linker, 920 F.2d 1, 1-2 (7th Cir.1990)). Finally, the Goode court opined that the “interest obligation could not be disturbed because the court made no determination at sentencing under § 3612(f)(3) that he was unable to pay.” Id. at 744. The Goode court nevertheless held that 18 U.S.C. § 3572(d)(3), which “allows criminal defendants to seek relief from fines based on economic hardship, ” gave the district court jurisdiction to consider the defendant's petition. Id. That statute provides:

A judgment for a fine which permits payments in installments shall include a requirement that the defendant will notify the court of any material change in the defendant's economic circumstances that might affect the defendant's ability to pay the fine. Upon receipt of such notice the court may, on its own motion or the motion of any party, adjust the payment schedule, or require immediate payment in full, as the interests of justice require.

18 U.S.C. § 3572(d)(3).

         When it enacted § 3572(d)(3), Congress also passed 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k). See Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 §§ 206(a), 207(b). Section 3464(k) contains language nearly identical to § 3572(d)(3):

A restitution order shall provide that the defendant shall notify the court and the Attorney General of any material change in the defendant's economic circumstances that might affect the defendant's ability to pay restitution. The court may also accept notification of a material change in the defendant's economic circumstances from the United States or from the victim. The Attorney General shall certify to the court that the victim or victims owed restitution by the defendant have been notified of the change in circumstances. Upon receipt of the notification, the court may, on its own motion, ...

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