United States v. Addonizio
Annotate this Case
442 U.S. 178 (1979)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178 (1979)
United States v. Addonizio
Argued March 27, 1979
Decided June 4, 1979
442 U.S. 178
Held: A federal prisoner's allegation that a postsentencing change in the policies of the United States Parole Commission has prolonged his actual imprisonment beyond the period intended by the sentencing judge will not support a collateral attack on the original sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Pp. 442 U. S. 184-190.
(a) The claimed error that the judge was incorrect in his assumptions about the future course of parole proceedings does not meet any of the established standards of collateral attack, where there is no claim of a constitutional violation, the sentence imposed was within the statutory limits, and the proceeding was not infected with any error of fact or law of a "fundamental" character that renders the entire proceeding irregular and invalid. The change in Parole Commission policies involved here -- considering the seriousness of the offense as a significant factor in determining whether a prisoner should be granted parole -- affected the way in which the court's judgment and sentence would be performed, but did not affect the lawfulness of the judgment itself, then or now; and there is no claim that the action taken by the sentencing judge was unconstitutional or was based on misinformation of constitutional magnitude. Davis v. United States, 417 U. S. 333, and United States v. Tucker, 404 U. S. 443, distinguished. Pp. 442 U. S. 184-187.
(b) There is no basis for enlarging the grounds for collateral attack to include claims based not on any objectively ascertainable error but on the frustration of the subjective intent of the sentencing judge. Under the present statutory scheme, the judge has no enforceable expectations with respect to the actual release of a sentenced defendant short of his statutory term; and while the judge may have expectations as to when release is likely, the actual decision is not his to make, either at the time of sentencing or later if his expectations are not met. To require the Parole Commission to act in accordance with judicial expectations, and to use collateral attack as a mechanism for ensuring that these expectations are carried out, would substantially undermine the congressional decision to entrust release determinations to the Commission, not the courts, and nothing in § 2255 supports -- let alone mandates -- such a frustration of congressional intent. Thus, subsequent
actions taken.by the Parole Commission -- whether or not such actions accord with a trial judge's expectations at the time of sentencing -- do not retroactively affect the validity of the final judgment itself, and do not provide a basis for collateral attack on the sentence pursuant to § 2255. Pp. 442 U. S. 187-190.
573 F.2d 147, reversed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined except BRENNAN, J., who took no part in the decision of the case, and POWELL, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.