Time for another Case Blog. This one will be a little different than some of our usual ones. Bloate v. U.S., is a case that shows some of the more subtle details of the practice of law. In this case the U.S. Supreme Court took a look at The Speedy Trial Act of 1974, which requires a criminal trial to commence within 70 days of indictment or initial appearance. One interesting fact about this Act is that there is no option to waive this right.
Of course it’s never that easy, there are exclusions to what counts towards the 70 day limit. Some of these exclusions are automatic, and others are discretionary, requiring a judge to make a decision.
But first a little back ground on Mr. Bloate’s case. On August 2, 2006, Mr. Bloate left an apartment building and got into his car with his girlfriend. Police (who were of course staked out in front of the building) followed them. Mr. Bloate committed several “traffic violations,” and was pulled over. (Let me point out, if an officer wants to pull you over, chances are they will catch you doing something wrong). After being pulled over, the officers found two small bags of cocaine on petitioner’s lap. You may ask why he had cocaine on his lap while driving… I have no idea. (Note: don’t do this). After being read his Miranda rights, Mr. Bloate made inculpatory statements. (Note: again, don’t do this). Mr. Bloate denied that he had any connection with the apartment building, but his girlfriend admitted that she lived there and consented to a search. (Note: seriously, I’m not kidding, don’t do this). When the officers conducted the search they found several items that belonged to Mr. Bloate. (You know, the usual: ID, cocaine, firearms, bulletproof vest, ect…).
Needless to say Mr. Bloate was arrested and his indictment occurred on August 24th. (This started the clock for the 70 day count down). He was scheduled to have pre-trial motions in on Sep 13th. On Sep 7th, Mr. Bloate requested an extension to prepare pretrial motions, until Sep 21st. The Court, instead, extended the deadline to Sep 25th. On Sep 25th, Mr. Bloate waived his right to file pretrial motions. On Oct 4th, there was a Court hearing to determine if Mr. Bloate’s waiver was legitimate.
179 days later after the indictment, Mr. Bloate moved for a dismissal. The question boiled down to whether the period of time between Sep 13th and Oct 4th counted as time that is automatically excluded from the 70 days. Long story short, because the request was to prepare pretrial motions a judge would have to make a finding that the time should be excluded from the 70 days, it was not automatic.
Probably not the most entertaining case blog, but that’s what happens in court. It’s also why it is important to have a dedicated and knowledgeable attorney at your side.
Please remember that the interpretation and analysis presented here is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice please contact us for a free consultation and actual examination the issues that your case may present.
Landon J. Ascheman, Esq.
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Justice Thomas , Opinion of the Court
requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United
States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal
errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes
to press. This opinion is
subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States
OF THE UNITED STATES
TAYLOR JAMES BLOATE, PETITIONER v. UNITED
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eighth circuit
[March 8, 2010]
Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Speedy Trial Act of 1974 (Speedy Trial Act or Act), 18 U. S. C. §3161 et seq., requires that a criminal
defendant’s trial commence within 70 days after he is charged or makes an
initial appearance, whichever is later, see §3161(c)(1),
and entitles him to dismissal of the charges if that deadline is not met,
§3162(a)(2). The Act, however, excludes from the 70-day period delays due to
certain enumerated events. §3161(h). As relevant here,
“delay resulting from . . . proceedings concerning the defendant” is
automatically excludable from a Speedy Trial Act calculation. 1 18 U. S. C. A.
§3161(h)(1)(Supp. 2009) (hereinafter subsection
(h)(1)). In addition, “delay resulting from a continuance” granted by the
district court may be excluded if the district court makes the findings
required by §3161(h)(7) (hereinafter subsection
This case requires us to decide the narrow question whether time granted to a
party to prepare pretrial motions is automatically
excludable from the Act’s 70-day limit under subsection (h)(1), or whether such
time may be excluded only if a court makes case-specific findings under
subsection (h)(7). The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that
pretrial motion preparation time is automatically excludable under subsection
(h)(1). 2 534 F. 3d 893, 898
(2008). We granted certiorari, 556 U. S. ___ (2009), and now
On August 2, 2006, police officers surveilling an
apartment building for drug activity saw petitioner and his girlfriend enter a
car parked in front of the building and drive away. After observing petitioner
commit several traffic violations, the officers stopped the vehicle. They
approached the car and noticed two small bags of cocaine on petitioner’s lap.
After the officers read petitioner his Miranda warnings, petitioner made inculpatory statements. See Miranda v. Arizona , 384 U. S. 436 (1966) . Petitioner denied any
association with the apartment building where the car had been parked, but his
girlfriend admitted that she lived there and consented to a search of her
residence. The officers who conducted the search uncovered several items that
belonged to petitioner, including an identification card, cocaine, three
firearms, ammunition, and a bulletproof vest. The police arrested petitioner
the next day.
On August 24, a grand jury indicted petitioner for being a felon in possession
of a firearm, in violation of 18
U. S. C. §922(g)(1), and for knowing and intentional possession with
intent to distribute more than five grams of cocaine, in violation of 21 U. S. C. §841(a)(1). The
August 24 indictment started the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day clock. See 18 U. S. C. §3161(c)(1). After petitioner’s arraignment on September 1, a
Magistrate Judge entered a scheduling order requiring, inter alia ,
that the parties file pretrial motions by September 13.
On September 7, petitioner filed a motion to extend the deadline to file
pretrial motions from September 13 to September 21. The Magistrate Judge
granted the motion and extended the deadline by an extra four days beyond
petitioner’s request, to September 25. On September 25, however, petitioner
filed a “Waiver of Pretrial Motions” advising the court that he did not wish to
file any pretrial motions.
On October 4, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing to consider petitioner’s
“waiver,” at which petitioner confirmed that he wished to waive his right to
file pretrial motions. After a colloquy, the Magistrate Judge found that petitioner’s
waiver was voluntary and intelligent.
Over the next three months, petitioner’s trial was delayed for several reasons.
Though these delays are not directly relevant to the question presented here,
we recount them to explain the full context in which that question arises. On
November 8, petitioner moved to continue the trial date, stating that his
counsel needed additional time to prepare for trial. The District Court granted
the motion and reset the trial for December 18.
The parties then met informally and prepared a plea agreement, which they
provided to the court. The District Court scheduled a change of plea hearing
for December 20. At the hearing, however, petitioner declined to implement the
agreement and requested a new attorney. The District Court rescheduled the
trial for February 26, 2007, granted petitioner’s attorney’s subsequent motion
to withdraw, and appointed new counsel.
On February 19, 2007—179 days after petitioner was indicted—petitioner moved to
dismiss the indictment, claiming that the Act’s 70-day limit had elapsed. The
District Court denied the motion. In calculating how many of the 179 days
counted toward the 70-day limit, the District Judge excluded the period from
September 7 through October 4 as “within the extension of time granted to file
pretrial motions.” 3 Order in No.
4:06CR518–SNL (ED Mo.), Doc. 44, p. 2.
In late February, a matter arose in an unrelated case on the District Court’s
docket, which required the court to reschedule petitioner’s trial. After
obtaining the consent of the parties and finding that a continuance would serve
the public interest, the District Court continued petitioner’s trial from
February 26 to March 5, 2007. Petitioner’s 2-day trial began on that date. The
jury found petitioner guilty on both counts and the District Court later
sentenced him to concurrent 30-year terms of imprisonment.
Petitioner appealed his convictions and sentence to the Eighth Circuit, which
affirmed the denial of his motion to dismiss for a Speedy Trial Act violation.
As relevant, the Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that the time
from September 7 (the original deadline for filing pretrial motions) through
October 4 (when the trial court held a hearing on petitioner’s decision to
waive the right to file pretrial motions) was excludable from the Act’s 70-day
limit. Although the District Court did not identify which provision of the Act
supported this exclusion, the Court of Appeals held that “pretrial motion
preparation time” is automatically excludable under subsection (h)(1)—which
covers “delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant”—as
long as “the [district] court specifically grants time for that purpose.” 534 F. 3d, at 897. 4 In reaching this conclusion, the Eighth Circuit joined seven other
Courts of Appeals that interpret subsection (h)(1) the
same way. 5 Two Courts of Appeals, the Fourth and Sixth Circuits, interpret
subsection (h)(1) differently, holding that time for preparing pretrial motions
is outside subsection (h)(1)’s scope. 6 We granted certiorari to resolve this conflict.
As noted, the Speedy Trial Act requires that a criminal defendant’s trial
commence within 70 days of a defendant’s initial appearance or indictment, but
excludes from the 70-day period days lost to certain types of delay. Section
3161(h) specifies the types of delays that are excludable from the calculation.
Some of these delays are excludable only if the district court makes certain
findings enumerated in the statute. See §3161(h)(7).
Other delays are automatically excludable, i.e. , they may be excluded without
district court findings. As relevant here, subsection (h)(1) requires the
automatic exclusion of “[a]ny period of delay
resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not
limited to” periods of delay resulting from eight enumerated subcategories of
proceedings. 7 The Government contends that the time the District Court granted
petitioner to prepare his pretrial motions is automatically excludable under
subsection (h)(1). We disagree, and conclude that such
time may be excluded only when a district court enters appropriate findings
under subsection (h)(7).
The eight subparagraphs in subsection (h)(1) address
the automatic excludability of delay generated for certain enumerated purposes.
Thus, we first consider whether the delay at issue in this case is governed by
one of these subparagraphs. It is.
The delay at issue was granted to allow petitioner sufficient time to file
pretrial motions. 8 Subsection (h)(1)(D) (hereinafter subparagraph (D)) renders
automatically excludable “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.” Read, as it must be, in the context of subsection
(h), this text governs the automatic excludability of delays “resulting” from a
specific category of “proceedings concerning the defendant,” namely,
proceedings involving pretrial motions. 9 Because the delay at issue here results from a decision granting
time to prepare pretrial motions, if not from a pretrial motion itself (the
defendant’s request for additional time), it is governed by subparagraph (D).
But that does not make the delay at issue here automatically excludable.
Subparagraph (D) does not subject all pretrial motion-related delay to
automatic exclusion. Instead, it renders automatically excludable only the
delay that occurs “ from
the filing of the motion through the
conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of” the motion.
(Emphasis added.) In so doing, the provision communicates Congress’ judgment
that delay resulting from pretrial motions is automatically excludable, i.e ., excludable without district
court findings, only from the time a motion is filed
through the hearing or disposition point specified in the subparagraph, and
that other periods of pretrial motion-related delay are excludable only when
accompanied by district court findings. 10
This limitation is significant because Congress knew how to define the
boundaries of an enumerated exclusion broadly when it so desired. Subsection (h)(1)(A) (hereinafter subparagraph (A)), for example,
provides for the automatic exclusion of “delay resulting from any proceeding, including any examinations, to determine the
mental competency or physical capacity of the defendant.” (Emphasis added.)
With the word “including,” Congress indicated that other competency-related
proceedings besides “examinations” might fall within subparagraph (A)’s
automatic exclusion. In subparagraph (D), by contrast, Congress declined to use
an expansive or illustrative term such as “including,” and provided instead that
only pretrial motion-related delay “from the filing” of a motion to the hearing
or disposition point specified in the provision is automatically excludable
from the Act’s 70-day limit.
Thus, although the period of delay the Government seeks to exclude in this case
results from a proceeding governed by subparagraph (D), that period precedes
the first day upon which Congress specified that such delay may be
automatically excluded. The result is that the pretrial motion preparation time
at issue in this case is not automatically excludable. 11
The foregoing analysis resolves our inquiry into automatic excludability
because “[a] specific provision” (here, subparagraph (D)) “controls one[s] of
more general application” (here, subsections (h)(1)
and (h)(7)). Gozlon-Peretz v.United States , 498 U. S. 395, 407 (1991)
. In arguing that this principle applies, but requires a result different from
the one we reach, the dissent (like the Government and several Courts of
Appeals) departs from the statute in a manner that underscores the propriety of
There is no question that subparagraph (D) is more specific than the “general”
language in subsection (h)(1), post , at 2, 6, or that “[g]eneral language of a statutory provision, although broad
enough to include it, will not be held to apply to a matter specifically dealt
with in another part of the same enactment,” D.
Ginsberg & Sons, Inc. v. Popkin , 285 U. S. 204,208 (1932) . We part company with the
dissent because we conclude that subparagraph (D) governs the period of delay
at issue in this case. The dissent does not object to this conclusion on the
ground that it is foreclosed by the statute. Seepost, at 5 (asserting that the delay at
issue in this case is “not necessarily” covered by subparagraph (D)).
Instead, it joins the Government in asserting that the Act is amenable to another
interpretation that would avoid the “strange result” that “petitioner may be
entitled to dismissal of the charges against him because his attorney persuaded
a Magistrate Judge to give the defense additional time to prepare pretrial
motions and thus delayed the commencement of his trial.” Post , at 1. This argument takes
aim at an exaggerated target. Because we conclude that the type of delay at
issue here is excludable under subsection (h)(7),
courts can in future cases easily avoid the result the dissent decries, a
result that is not certain even in this case. See infra , at 17–18. And even if
dismissal is ultimately required on remand, a desire to avoid this result does
not justify reading subsection (h)(1) (and specifically its reference to “other
proceedings concerning the defendant”) to permit automatic exclusion of delay
resulting from virtually any decision to continue a deadline.
The dissent first argues that the delay in this case is automatically
excludable under subsection (h)(1) because the provision’s use of the phrase
“including but not limited to” shows that subsection (h)(1) permits automatic
exclusion of delays beyond those covered by its enumerated subparagraphs. See post , at 3; see also United States v. Oberoi , 547 F. 3d 436, 450 (CA2
2008). This argument confuses the illustrative nature of subsection (h)(1)’s list of categories of excludable delay (each of which
is represented by a subparagraph) with the contents of the categories
themselves. That the list of categories is illustrative rather than exhaustive
in no way undermines our conclusion that a delay that falls within the category of delay addressed by
subparagraph (D) is governed by the limits in that subparagraph. The “including
but not limited to” clause would affect our conclusion only if one read it to
modify the contents of subparagraph (D) as well as the list itself. As noted,
such a reading would violate settled principles of statutory construction
because it would ignore the structure and grammar of subsection (h)(1), and in so doing render even the clearest of the
subparagraphs indeterminate and virtually superfluous. See Gozlon-Peretz , supra , at 410; Duncan v. Walker , 533 U. S. 167, 174 (2001)
(“[A] statute ought, upon the whole, to be so construed that, if it can be
prevented, no clause, sentence, or word shall be superfluous, void, or
insignificant” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Our reading avoids these
problems by treating the list as illustrative, but construing each of the eight
subparagraphs in (h)(1) to govern, conclusively unless the subparagraph itself
indicates otherwise, see, e.g .,
§3161(h)(1)(A); supra , at 9, the automatic
excludability of the delay resulting from the category of proceedings it
The dissent responds that, even if subparagraph (D)’s limits are conclusive
rather than merely illustrative, we should automatically exclude the delay at
issue here under subsection (h)(1)’s opening clause, see post , at 2, because it is not “clear”
that the delay is governed by the more specific (and restrictive) language in
subparagraph (D). Post ,
at 5. We decline this invitation to use the alleged uncertainty in subparagraph
(D)’s scope as a justification for disregarding its limits and instead
expanding, through liberal interpretation of subsection (h)(1)’s
generic opening clause, 12 what the dissent itself describes as the automatic
exclusion “exceptio[n]” to the Act’s 70-day period
and the Act’s “general rule” requiring “ends-of-justice findings for
continuances.” Post , at 11.
On the dissent’s reading of subsection (h)(1), a court could extend by weeks or
months, without any finding that the incursion on the Act’s timeliness
guarantee is justified, the entire portion of a criminal proceeding for which
the Act sets a default limit of 70 days. The problem with this reading is
clear: It relies on an interpretation of subsection (h)(1) that admits of no
principled, text-based limit on the definition of a “proceeding concerning the
defendant,” and thus threatens the Act’s manifest purpose of ensuring speedy
trials by construing the Act’s automatic exclusion exceptions in a manner that
could swallow the 70-day rule. This approach is not justified, much less
compelled, by the textual ambiguities and legislative history upon which the
dissent relies. Nor is it justified by the prospect, however appealing, of
reaching a different result in this case. Hence our conclusion that the text
and structure of subsection (h)(1) do not permit
automatic exclusion of the delay at issue in this case.
Our conclusion is further supported by subsection (h)(1)’s
context, particularly neighboring subsection (h)(7). Subsection (h)(7) provides that delays “resulting from a continuance
granted by any judge” may be excluded, but only if the judge
finds that “the ends of justice served by taking such action outweigh the best
interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial” and records those
findings. In setting forth the statutory factors that justify a continuance
under subsection (h)(7), Congress twice recognized the
importance of adequate pretrial preparation time. See §3161(h)(7)(B)(ii)
(requiring a district court to consider whether the “unusual” or “complex”
nature of a case makes it “unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings or for
the trial itself within the time limits” (emphasis added)); §3161(h)(7)(B)(iv)
(requiring a district court to consider in other cases “[w]hether
the failure to grant such a continuance . . . would deny counsel for the defendant
or the attorney for the Government the reasonable
time necessary for effective preparation ,
taking into account the exercise of due diligence” (emphasis added)). Our
determination that the delay at issue here is not automatically excludable
gives full effect to subsection (h)(7), and respects its provisions for
excluding certain types of delay only where district court makes findings
justifying the exclusion. 13 Cf . post , at 11–12 (construing subsection
(h)(1) in a manner that could encompass, and govern, delays expressly within
subsection (h)(7)’s purview).
Finally, our Speedy Trial Act precedents support our reading of subsection (h)(1). We recently explained that the Act serves not only to
protect defendants, but also to vindicate the public interest in the swift
administration of justice. We thus held that a defendant may not opt out of the
Act even if he believes it would be in his interest; “[a]llowing
prospective waivers would seriously undermine the Act because there are many
cases . . . in which the prosecution, the defense, and the court would all be
happy to opt out of the Act, to the detriment of the public interest.” Zedner v. United
States , 547 U. S. 489, 502 (2006)
Courts of Appeals that have read subsection (h)(1) to
exclude automatically pretrial motion preparation time have reasoned that their
interpretation is necessary to provide defendants adequate time to build their
defense. See, e.g. ,United States v. Mobile Materials, Inc. , 871 F. 2d 902, 913 (per curiam) , opinion supplemented on other
grounds on rehearing, 881 F. 2d 866 (CA10 1989) (per curiam) . Yet these same courts have
recognized that reading subsection (h)(1) to exclude all time for preparing pretrial
motions would undermine the guarantee of a speedy trial, and thus harm the
public interest we have recognized in preserving that guarantee even where one
or both parties to a proceeding would be willing to waive it. See Zedner , supra , at 502. To avoid a result so
inconsistent with the statute’s purpose— i.e. , “to avoid creating a big loophole
in the statute,” United States v. Tibboel , 753 F. 2d 608, 610 (CA7
1985)—these courts have found it necessary to craft limitations on the
automatic exclusion for pretrial motion preparation time that their
interpretation of subsection (h)(1) otherwise would allow. See, e.g. , ibid. (stating that pretrial motion
preparation time may be automatically excluded under subsection (h)(1) only
when “ the judge has expressly granted a
party time for that purpose ”
(emphasis added)); Oberoi ,
547 F. 3d, at 450 (“This . . . qualification prevents abuse. Without it,
either party ‘could delay trial indefinitely merely by working on pretrial
motions right up to the eve of trial’ ”).
The fact that courts reading subsection (h)(1) to exclude preparation time have
imposed extratextual limitations on excludability to
avoid “creating a big loophole in the statute,” Tibboel , supra , at 610, underscores the extent
to which their interpretation—and the dissent’s—strays from the Act’s text and
purpose. As noted, subsection (h)(7) expressly
accounts for the possibility that a district court would need to delay a trial
to give the parties adequate preparation time. An exclusion under subsection (h)(7) is not automatic, however, and requires specific findings.
Allowing district courts to exclude automatically such delays would redesign
this statutory framework.
We also note that some of the Courts of Appeals that have interpreted
subsection (h)(1) to exclude automatically pretrial
motion preparation time have reasoned that a contrary reading of that provision
would lay “a trap for trial judges” by forcing them to risk a Speedy Trial Act
violation if they wish to grant a defendant’s request for additional time to
prepare a pretrial motion, United
States v. Wilson , 835 F. 2d 1440, 1444 (CADC
1987); see also Oberoi , supra, at 450.
We acknowledge that it would be unpalatable to interpret the Speedy Trial Act
to “trap” district courts for accommodating a defendant’s request for
additional time to prepare pretrial motions, particularly in a case like this.
Petitioner instigated all of the pretrial delays except for the final
continuance from February 26 to March 5. And the record clearly shows that the
Magistrate Judge and the District Court diligently endeavored to accommodate
petitioner’s requests—granting his motion for an extension of time to decide
whether to file pretrial motions, his motion for a continuance, and his motion
for a new attorney and for time to allow this new attorney to become familiar
with the case. Fortunately, we can abide by the limitations Congress imposed on
the statutory rights at issue here without interpreting the Act in a manner
that would trap trial courts.
For the reasons we explained above, neither subparagraph (D) nor subsection (h)(1) automatically excludes time granted to prepare pretrial
motions. This conclusion does not lay a “trap for trial judges” because it
limits (in a way the statute requires) only automatic exclusions. In
considering any request for delay, whether the exclusion of time will be
automatic or not, trial judges always have to devote time to assessing whether
the reasons for the delay are justified, given both the statutory and
constitutional requirement of speedy trials. Placing these reasons in the
record does not add an appreciable burden on these judges. Neither are district courts forced to choose between rejecting a
defendant’s request for time to prepare pretrial motions and risking dismissal
of the indictment if preparation time delays the trial. Instead, a district
court may exclude preparation time under subsection (h)(7) if it grants a
continuance for that purpose based on recorded findings “that the ends of
justice served by taking such action outweigh the best interest of the public
and the defendant in a speedy trial.” Subsection (h)(7) provides “[m]uch of the Act’s flexibility,” Zedner , 547 U. S., at 498, and
gives district courts “discretion—within limits and subject to specific
procedures—to accommodate limited delays for case-specific needs,” id. , at 499.
The statutory scheme thus ensures that district courts may grant necessary
pretrial motion preparation time without risking dismissal.
Still, the Government suggests that, in some cases, a district court may fail
to make the findings necessary for an exclusion under subsection (h)(7), leading to a windfall gain for a defendant who induces
delay beyond the Act’s 70-day limit. Dismissal, however, need not represent a
windfall. A district court may dismiss the charges without prejudice ,
thus allowing the Government to refile charges or reindict the defendant. 18
U. S. C. §3162(a)(1). In ruling upon a
motion to dismiss under the Act, a district court should consider, among other
factors, the party responsible for the delay. See ibid.(“In determining whether
to dismiss the case with or without prejudice, the [district] court shall
consider, among others, each of the following factors: the seriousness of the
offense; the facts and
circumstances of the case which led to the dismissal ; and the impact of a reprosecution on the administration of this chapter and on
the administration of justice” (emphasis added)); see also United States v. Taylor , 487 U. S. 326, 343 (1988)
(“Seemingly ignored were the brevity of the delay and the consequential lack of
prejudice to respondent, as well as respondent’s own illicit contribution to
Based on this analysis, we hold that the 28-day period from September 7 through
October 4, which includes the additional time granted by the District Court for
pretrial motion preparation, is not automatically excludable under subsection
(h)(1). The Court of Appeals did not address whether any portion of that time
might have been otherwise excludable. Nor did the Government assert in its
merits brief that another provision of the Act could support exclusion, presenting
the argument that September 25 through October 4 could be excluded separately
only in its brief in opposition to certiorari and during oral argument. We
therefore do not consider whether any other exclusion would apply to all or
part of the 28-day period. Instead, we reverse the judgment of the Court of
Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
It is so