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Prisons & Jails – BOP Ordered to Reconsider Concurrent Sentences

Mangum v. Hallembaek (Lawyers Weekly No. 001-097-16, 12 pp.) (Davis, S.J.) No. 15-6134, May 25, 2016; USDC at Raleigh, N.C. (Flanagan, J.) 4th Cir.

Holding: The 4th Circuit says a district court erred in overlooking the Bureau of Prison’s abuse of discretion in denying a habeas petitioner a nunc pro tunc designation to allow him to serve a prior federal sentence imposed in North Carolina in an Oklahoma state prison where defendant served a later imposed state sentence; the state sentencing judge ordered that petitioner’s state sentences run concurrently with each other and with the previously imposed federal sentence.

The BOP’s sentencing computation, coupled with its refusal to grant nunc pro tunc relief, effectively determined that the previously imposed federal sentence would be served consecutively to the later imposed state sentence, and this notwithstanding the clearly expressed intent of the state sentencing court that its sentence be served concurrently with the federal sentence.

We conclude the district court correctly denied relief on petitioner’s claims relating to calculation and execution of his sentence, and we affirm the judgment in part for the reasons stated by the district court.

We discern legal error, however, and hence an abuse of discretion, in the BOP’s stated basis for its refusal to grant nunc pro tunc relief. Specifically, we hold that, in its consideration of the fourth statutory factor under 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b) (any statement by the court that imposed the sentence), the BOP misapplied 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a). That is, in the face of the federal sentencing judge’s silence as to the court’s intention, the BOP invoked a presumption that the unelaborated federal sentence should be deemed to run consecutively to the later imposed state sentence, quoting the following language from § 3584(a): “Multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at different times run consecutively unless the court orders that the terms are to run concurrently.”

We conclude the presumption relied on was inapplicable. The circumstances surrounding petitioner’s serial convictions and sentencings do not fall within either of the two scenarios contemplated by the opening sentence of § 3584(a). We are constrained to agree with petitioner’s assertion that the federal sentencing judge’s silence does not and cannot give rise to a statutory presumption that the federal sentence should be deemed intended as a consecutive sentence to the later imposed state sentence. We reject the government’s contention that the plain language of § 3584(a) creates a presumption, in any and all circumstances, that multiple terms of imprisonment will run consecutively unless expressly stated otherwise.

The clarity of the BOP’s error is made even more plain by a second compelling consideration. At the time petitioner was sentenced in the North Carolina federal court in May 2007, a federal district judge in this circuit was powerless to impose a federal sentence to be served consecutively to a state sentence that had not yet been imposed. A circuit split on that issue was resolved in 2015.

In this case, one might reasonably expect the BOP to exercise its discretion to weigh heavily what the state judge did say rather than what the federal judge did not and could not say.

Upon remand, the district court shall return this matter to the BOP so the agency may give plenary consideration to petitioner’s request for nunc pro tunc designation of the Oklahoma state facility as the place for service of his federal sentence. In considering the request, the BOP shall invoke no presumption under 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a) and shall fully evaluate all relevant factors under § 3621(b) consistent with this opinion.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded.

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