Bartone v. United States/Dissent Clark

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Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

375 U.S. 52

Bartone  v.  United States

 Argued: Oct. 28, 1963. ---

Mr. Justice CLARK, with whom Mr. Justice HARLAN and Mr. Justice STEWART join, dissenting.

Petitioner was convicted of attempting to export munitions of war from the United States to a foreign state without a license in violation of § 414 of the Mutual Security Act of 1954, 68 Stat. 848, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 1934. This statute provides a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment and $25,000 fine. Imposition of sentence of confinement was withheld and petitioner was placed on probation for three years and fined $10,000 (later reduced to $7,500). Thereafter, the Probation Officer petitioned the District Court to issue a warrant and revoke petitioner's probation, alleging that petitioner had violated probation by participating in a contract to sell arms to the Republic of Honduras. After hearing, the court revoked the probation and orally sentenced petitioner to one year imprisonment. Bail was denied by the District Court but granted by the Court of Appeals pending petitioner's appeal. Before submission on the merits, the Government called the Court of Appeals' attention to the fact that the sentence was recorded as one year and one day rather than one year only and moved that the case be remanded to correct the sentence. The court denied the motion and thereafter affirmed the case on the merits. Petitioner sought rehearing, suggesting that the Court of Appeals 'failed to consider' the sentencing error, which petitioner had not argued 'fully.' The petition was denied and the case came here on this issue alone.

The Court summarily reverses and directs that the sentence be corrected. I believe that this is error. The petitioner never presented this question to the District Court and that court has not passed upon it. Under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, an application to correct an illegal sentence may be made to the District Court at any time. In addition, Rule 36, as to clerical errors (w ich apparently this is), likewise places power in the District Court to make correction. This Court, however, by its action today makes this an appealable error even though it has never been called to the attention of the trial court. The Court has thereby created an additional remedy for obtaining relief from a sentencing error, despite the existence of the adequate relief already provided in Rule 35 or Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Heretofore, claims of this nature have been prosecuted in the District Court by motion under Rule 35. The Court's new method of relief not only prevents the District Court from correcting its own error but also delays the final disposition of the case and creates confusion in the administration of justice. I would require petitioner, as the Rules provide, to apply to the District Court.

Moreover, petitioner may not understand the practical effect of the error on his term of prison sentence. Under 18 U.S.C. § 4161, petitioner is allowed six days per month deduction for good behavior if his sentence is a year and a day. Sentence of a year or less permits only five days per month deduction from the term of sentence. In practical effect, under this Court's order, petitioner may have to serve 11 days' additional time. The Court should require petitioner to proceed in the regular way by Rule 35 rather than force him to serve a longer sentence, especially since his petition may result from lack of familiarity with 'good behavior' regulations. For these reasons I dissent.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).