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Second Circuit Remands for Resentencing to Consider Post-Sentencing Rehabilitation

In United States v. White, 15-229-cr (Cabranes, Droney, Meyer by designation), the Second Circuit ordered a remand for resentencing via summary order, instructing the lower court to consider the defendant’s post-sentencing rehabilitation. Although the order is not precedential, it represents an important reminder that practitioners can raise new factual arguments at resentencing based on changes in the defendant’s circumstances since the time of the initial sentencing proceedings.

In 2013, White was convicted of several counts of making false claims against the United States and was sentenced to thirty-three months’ imprisonment, restitution, and a three-year term of supervised release.  After an initial successful appeal, White was resentenced to time served, restitution, and a three-year term of supervised release.  In connection with her resentencing, White sought a shortened term of supervised release based on her rehabilitation during her ongoing incarceration.  During the resentencing hearing, the lower court erroneously concluded that it was not required to consider White’s post-sentencing rehabilitation and declined to shorten her term of supervised release.

In deciding to remand the case for a second resentencing, the Circuit explained that district courts are “obliged at resentencing to take into account such material changes in [the] circumstances [of the defendant] as have arisen since the original proceeding.”  Based on this principle, the lower court erred in concluding that White’s post-sentencing rehabilitation need not be considered in fashioning her new sentence.  The Court emphasized that the record was “ambiguous” as to whether, after finding that it was not obligated to consider White’s post-sentencing rehabilitation, the lower court did in fact decline to take that rehabilitation into account.  In light of the ambiguity, the Circuit “deem[ed] it prudent to remand” for the limited purpose of permitting the lower court to consider whether White’s changed circumstances merited a reduction in her term of supervised release.

White highlights the opportunities available to practitioners during resentencing proceedings.  Even where a case is remanded for resentencing solely on the basis of a legal error, during resentencing, practitioners can and should raise new factual arguments that highlight any changes in their clients’ circumstances that might mitigate the penalties to be imposed.  This rule provides an appropriate benefit for those defendants who have endeavored to change their lives after being convicted.

-By Jacqueline L. Bonneau and Harry Sandick