United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
September 30, 1999, Defendant Gaváta Fields pled
guilty to making counterfeit securities in violation of
section 513 of Title 18 of the United States Code. Judge
Ricardo M. Urbina sentenced her to prison time and
restitution in the amount of $32, 572.51. (See Min.
Order of Dec. 9, 1999.) Fields was released on July 9, 2001
(see Def.'s Mot. for Remission of Restitution
("Def.'s Mot."), ECF No. 25, at 1), and
according to the government, she began making intermittent
payments in September of 2001 (Mem. in Opp'n, ECF No. 27,
at 4 n.1.) To date, a grand total of $13, 924.74 has been
credited toward her restitution obligation. (See
this Court is Fields's pro se Motion for
Remission of Restitution, which she filed on April 17, 2019.
The government opposes Fields's motion. This Court will
construe Fields's request as either a motion for
adjustment of her restitution sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
§ 3664(k), or a motion for waiver of her restitution
interest under 18 U.S.C. § 3612(f)(3). Because Fields
fails to satisfy the burden of proof under either
construction of her request, this Court will DENY her motion.
Motion for Remission of Restitution, Fields cites no
authority that authorizes this Court to grant the relief she
is now seeking. In her motion, Fields explains that, because
of accruing interest, the restitution debt "is a
hinderance in every which way." (Def.'s Mot. at 1.)
Fields further writes: "I really need to be able to
function as a single adult and be able to healthily pay my
bills and continue to live a legitimate positive and
productive life." (Id.) Therefore, Fields asks
for "immediate remission" of the "entire
restitution in this matter, including all collected interests
[.]" (Id.) In ascertaining the scope of its
jurisdiction, this Court is cognizant that "[a] document
filed pro se is to be liberally construed[.]"
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Therefore, the Court
construes Fields's motion as either (A) a motion for
adjustment of her restitution sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
§ 3664(k), or (B) a motion for waiver of the restitution
interest under 18 U.S.C. § 3612(f)(3).
evaluating Fields's requested relief, the Court first
looks at the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996
("MVRA"), which governs restitution. See
18 U.S.C. §§ 3663A, 3664. The MVRA "requires
the court to award full restitution regardless of the
defendant's financial circumstances." United
States v. Monzel, 641 F.3d 528, 543 (DC. Cir. 2011).
"Although the MVRA restricts discretion in setting the
amount of restitution, the statute expressly authorizes
discretion in fashioning how a defendant is required to pay
that amount." United States v. Armstrong, No.
09-cr-135, 2018 WL 5923913, at *5 (D.D.C. Nov. 13, 2018)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To that end,
a court may order "a single, lump-sum payment,"
"partial payments at specified intervals,"
"in-kind payments," "a combination of payments
at specified intervals and in-kind payments," or
"nominal periodic payments." 18 U.S.C. §
enacting the MVRA, Congress recognized that "a
significant number of defendants required to pay restitution
under this act will be indigent at the time of sentencing . .
. . [and that] many of these defendants may also be sentenced
to prison terms as well, making it unlikely that they will be
able to make significant payments on a restitution payment
schedule." S. Rep. 104-179, at 21 (1996), reprinted
in 1996 U.S.C.C.A.N. 924. However, Congress also
expressly asserted that "these factors do not obviate
the victim's right to restitution or the need that
defendants be ordered to pay restitution," and it made
restitution mandatory nevertheless. Id. Indeed, the
only concession that Congress made to ease the financial
burden was to "permit the court to order full
restitution under a schedule of nominal payments in those
instances where the defendant cannot pay restitution . . . .
[or] amend the payment requirements" in light of
"material changes" in economic circumstances.
MVRA further provides that a restitution "sentence can
subsequently be (A) corrected under Rule 35 of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure and section 3742 of chapter 235
of this title; (B) appealed and modified under section 3742;
(C) amended under subsection (d)(5); or (D) adjusted under
section 3664(k), 3572, or 3613A." 18 U.S.C. §
3664(o)(1). And courts have generally interpreted section
3664(o)(1) as an exclusive list. See, e.g., United States
v. Wyss, 744 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2014) (reversing
district court's reduction in the amount of restitution
owed by a defendant on the grounds that restitution may not
be altered absent a showing of one of the § 3664(o)(1)
does not purport to contest her original sentence, nor does
she argue that the sentencing court erred in any way, thus
neither section 3742 nor Rule 35 provides a basis for
correction or modification of her restitution order.
Similarly, section 3664(d)(5) does not apply, because that
provision pertains only to amendments to restitution orders
that result from a victim's "failure to include
[some] losses in the initial claim for restitutionary
relief[.]" Thus, section 3664(k) is the only potentially
applicable grounds for "adjusting" Fields's
restitution sentence. Under this section, when notified
"of a material change in the defendant's economic
circumstances," the Court is authorized to "adjust
the payment schedule, or require immediate payment in full,
as the interests of justice require." Id.
§ 3664(k). This section "specifically direct[s]
that the doors of the district court should remain open to
the defendant, and that the court is free to revise its
payment schedule at any time," and its purpose is to
make sure that "the defendant is not stuck, overwhelmed
with an obligation [s]he cannot meet and without the means to
seek redress." United States v. Dolan, 571 F.3d
1022, 1032 (10th Cir. 2009) (Gorsuch, J.),
aff'd, 560 U.S. 605 (2010).
seeking an adjustment under section 3664(k), "[t]he
petitioner bears the burden of proving that [her]
circumstances have changed enough to warrant such a
modification." Hinton v. United States, No.
99-cv-211, 2003 WL 21854935, at *4 (D.D.C. Aug. 5, 2003). The
D.C. Circuit has not addressed the precise contours of what
constitutes a "material change" in a
defendant's "economic circumstances." But other
circuits have. For instance, the Second Circuit has described
this standard as "an objective comparison of a
defendant's financial condition before and after a
sentence is imposed." United States v. Grant,
235 F.3d 95, 100 (2d Cir. 2000) (finding the material change
in economic circumstances standard satisfied where a
prisoner's bank account was unfrozen after sentencing).
The Eleventh Circuit describes the statute's requirement
as "a bona fide change in the defendant's financial
condition, either positive or negative." Cani v.
United States, 331 F.3d 1210, 1215 (11th Cir. 2003)
(finding a defedant's motion for modification inadequate
because supported only by documentation of restitution
has not established a basis for modifying her restitution
order under either Circuit's conception of section
3664(k). It is clear that this section is triggered only by
the movant's showing that there has been a "material
change in . . . economic circumstances," id.
§ 3664(k), and Fields's motion does not allege
any change in her financial conditions whatsoever.
Rather, Fields makes conclusory allegations that it is hard
for her to pay off the debt. See, e.g., Def.'s
Mot., at 1 (stating that the debt "is a hinderance in
every which way," and that she "really need[s] to
be able to function as a single adult and be able to
healthily pay [her] bills and continue to live a legitimate
positive and productive life."). That is not enough.
What is more, even if Fields had demonstrated a material
change in her ability to pay restitution, this Court is only
authorized to "adjust" Fields's "payment
schedule," 18 U.S.C. § 3664(k), by requiring
"nominal periodic payments if the court finds from facts
on the record that the economic circumstances of the
defendant do not allow the payment of any amount of a
restitution order, and do not allow for the payment of the
full amount of a restitution order in the foreseeable future
under any reasonable schedule of payments," id.
§ 3664(f)(3)(B). That is, the statute does not grant
this Court the authority to order full remission of the
restitution sentence, as Fields requests.
possible statutory basis of authority for this Court to
consider Fields's request is 18 U.S.C. § 3612(f)(3),
which provides that, "[i]f the court determines that the
defendant does not have the ability to pay interest" on
a fine or restitution, it may "(A) waive the requirement
for interest; (B) limit the total of interest payable to a
specific dollar amount; or (C) limit the length of the period
during which interest accrues." Liberally construed,
Fields's request might be deemed a motion to waive or
limit the total interest due on her restitution under section
3612(f)(3), There has been some disagreement among federal
courts as to whether section 3612(f)(3) authorizes a district
court to modify interest payments after sentencing.
Compare United States v. Coleman,319 Fed.Appx. 228,
230 (4th Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (holding that 18 U.S.C.
"§ 3612(f)(3) permits the court, post-judgment, to
waive or limit the payment of interest upon a finding that
the defendant is unable to pay interest") with
United States v. Brumfield,125 F.Supp.3d 648, 651 (W.D.
Mich. 2015) (concluding that 18 U.S.C. "§
3612(f)(3) does not grant district courts jurisdiction to
modify an interest obligation after the sentence has been
imposed"). However, even assuming, in contrast with the
government's argument, that subsection 3612(f)(3) permits
post-judgement relief,  Fields's request must be denied,
because this statutory provision does not provide the Court
with unlimited discretion to determine whether interest
should be waived or limited. Congress only authorized