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Foster v. United States

September 30, 2003

FREDERICK FOSTER, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos.: 25, 31

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PETITIONER'S MOTIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

More than seven years ago, this court sentenced the pro se petitioner to serve terms of imprisonment and supervised release, and directed him to pay restitution to the victims of his fraudulent activities. At the sentencing hearing, the court instructed the petitioner that his restitution payments were to "begin as soon as possible" and reiterated that such payments were "to begin immediately" in the judgment-and-commitment order. Once in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), the petitioner entered the BOP's Inmate Financial Responsibility Program ("IFRP") so that he could make payments toward his restitution throughout his period of incarceration. This case now comes before the court on the petitioner's motions challenging the judgment-and-commitment order. Specifically, the petitioner asks the court to amend the judgment-and-commitment order by staying his restitution obligations until his release from prison. Because the petitioner advances no basis warranting the requested relief, the court denies the petitioner's motions.

II. BACKGROUND

On February 28, 1996, the petitioner pled guilty to one count of access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029. J. at 1; Pet'r's R. 36 Mot. ("Pet'r's 1st Mot.") at 1. On June 10, 1996, the court sentenced the petitioner to 12 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and directed him to make restitution payments to his defrauded victims totaling approximately $33,000. Tr. 06/10/96 Hr'g ("Tr.") at 33-34. At the sentencing hearing, the court ordered the petitioner to begin making restitution payments "as soon as possible." Id. Similarly, the judgment-and-commitment order that followed expressly stated that payments were to begin "immediately." J. at 4. Making no mention of repayment specifics, the court committed the petitioner to the BOP's custody. Tr. at 34-35. Once the petitioner was in its custody, the BOP enrolled the petitioner in the IFRP to allow him to make restitution payments during the course of his incarceration. Pet'r's 1st Mot. at 1-2.

On July 24, 2000, the petitioner initiated the instant action by filing a motion to alter the language of the judgment-and-commitment order pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. Id. at 3. Believing that a discrepancy of language exists between the court's oral pronouncement of the sentence and the judgment-and-commitment order, the petitioner asks the court to reconcile this alleged discrepancy. Id. Specifically, the petitioner requests that the court amend his sentence to require that restitution payments begin upon commencement of his supervised-release term. Id. On November 2, 2000, the respondent filed a response stating that it does not oppose the petitioner's Rule 36 motion. Gov't's Resp. at 3.

On August 2, 2001, the petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration*fn1 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), that essentially mirrors his Rule 36 request. See generally Pet'r's R. 60(b) Mot. ("Pet'r's 2d Mot."). In this second motion, the petitioner asks the court to preclude the BOP from compelling his participation in the IFRP, claiming that the program is unconstitutional. Id. at 2-3. On May 14, 2002, the respondent filed its opposition to the petitioner's second motion on the grounds that the motion is both meritless and time-barred. Gov't's Opp'n. at 4-11. The court now addresses both of the petitioner's motions.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standards

1. Relief Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 36

Pursuant to Rule 36, the court may correct a criminal judgment, order, or other document entered in a criminal action at any time, either upon its own initiative or upon motion by a party. FED. R. CRIM. P. 36; United States v. Lewis, 626 F.2d 940, 953 n.21 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Courts have limited the application of this rule to only authorize corrections of "clerical errors in the transcription of judgments, [so as] not to effectuate [the court's] unexpressed intentions at the time of sentencing." United States v. Werber, 51 F.3d 342, 343 (2d Cir. 1995); see also, e.g., United States v. Ferguson, 918 F.2d 627, 630 (6th Cir. 1990). Clerical errors are "minor, uncontroversial errors," such as mechanical errors that a clerk might commit. Id. at 347. Courts have consistently rejected expansive uses of Rule 36 such as those that would substantially change the internal structure of a sentence or judgment. E.g., id.; United States v. Burd, 86 F.3d 285, 288 (2d Cir. 1996). Courts also have authorized the application of Rule 36, however, in cases where a written judgment does not correspond to an unambiguous oral pronouncement at sentencing. E.g., Lewis, 626 F.2d at 953 & n.21; United States v. Corey, 999 F.2d 493, 496-97 (10th Cir. 1993).

2. Relief Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)

In its discretion, the court may relieve a party from an otherwise final judgment pursuant to any one of six reasons set forth in Rule 60(b). FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b); Lepkowski v. Dep't of Treasury, 804 F.2d 1310, 1311-12 (D.C. Cir. 1986). First, the court may grant relief from a judgment involving "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). Such relief under Rule 60(b) turns on equitable factors, notably whether any neglect was excusable. Pioneer Inv. Serv. Co. v. Brunswick Ass'n Ltd. P'ship, 507 U.S. 380, 392 (1993). Second, the court may grant relief where there is "newly discovered evidence" that the moving party could not have discovered through its exercise of due diligence. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). Third, the court may set aside a final judgment for fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct by an adverse party. Id.; Mayfair Extension, Inc. v. Magee, 241 F.2d 453, 454 (D.C. Cir. 1957). Specifically, the movant must show that "such 'fraud' prevented him from fully and fairly presenting his case," and that "the fraud is attributable to the party or, at least, to counsel." Richardson v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 150 F.R.D. 1, 7 (D.D.C. 1993) (Sporkin, J.) (citations omitted). Fourth, the court may grant relief where the judgment is "void." FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). A judgment may be void if the court lacked personal or subject-matter jurisdiction in the case, acted in a manner inconsistent with due process, or proceeded beyond the powers granted to it by law. Eberhardt v. Integrated Design & Constr., Inc., 167 F.3d 861, 871 (4th Cir. 1999). Fifth, the court may grant relief if the "judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed... or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application." FED. ...


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