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Document Type

Comments

Abstract

On May 7, 2021, in United States v. Bryant, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s policy statement in Section 1B1.13 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines binds defendant-filed motions for compassionate release. In its Application Notes, the policy statement provides four “extraordinary and compelling circumstances” that warrant a sentence reduction. Application Note 1(D) is the “catch-all provision” because it states that judges may grant compassionate release for “other reasons” not specifically listed in the preceding Application Notes. Application Note 1(D) states that the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) defines all “other reasons” under the catch-all provision that qualify an inmate for compassionate release. Before 2018, only the Director of the BOP could file compassionate release motions under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). The First Step Act of 2018 amended the statute to allow defendants to file motions too. Because the policy statement still begins with the phrase “upon motion of the Director of the BOP,” courts have since questioned whether it also applies to defendant-filed motions. In a departure from the holdings of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth and D.C. Circuits, the Eleventh Circuit decided that the policy statement and its corresponding Application Notes apply to defendant-filed motions for compassionate release. Under this interpretation, only the BOP defines the “other reasons” that warrant compassionate release pursuant to Application Note 1(D). This Comment argues that the Eleventh Circuit was incorrect in its interpretation because it disregarded the plain text of the policy statement and erroneously considered the legislative intent of a different statute.

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