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United States v. Padilla-Diaz

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 5, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Armando Padilla-Diaz, AKA Gordo, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jeffrey Allen Heckman, Jr., Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BERNARDO CONTRERAS GUZMAN, AKA Chapparito, AKA Chapparo, AKA Huerro, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted November 7, 2016 Portland, Oregon

         Appeal from the United States District Court Nos. 3:08-cr-00126-MO-2, 3:10-cr-00143-MO-1, for the District of Oregon Michael W. Mosman, Chief Judge, Presiding

         Appeal from the United States District Court No. 3:12-cr-00291- SI-1 for the District of Oregon Michael H. Simon, District Judge, Presiding

          Elizabeth Gillingham Daily (argued), Research and Writing Attorney; Stephen R. Sady, Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender; Office of the Federal Public Defender, Portland, Oregon; Bryan E. Lessley, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Eugene, Oregon; for Defendants-Appellants.

          Kelly A. Zusman (argued), Appellate Chief; Jeffrey S. Sweet, Assistant United States Attorney; Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney; United States Attorney's Office, Portland, Oregon; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown, William A. Fletcher, and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Criminal Law

         The panel affirmed the district court's denials of three defendants' motions for sentence reductions under United States Sentencing Guidelines Amendment 782 and 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

         Each defendant was denied a reduction based on an application of the Sentencing Commission's Policy Statement § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A), which prohibits courts from reducing a defendant's "term of imprisonment" to "less than the minimum of the amended guideline range, " absent circumstances not present here.

         The panel rejected the defendants' contention that § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) conflicts with 28 U.S.C. § 991(b) by nullifying departures and variances from the guideline range that were necessary to meet the statutory mandates of achieving a sentence sufficient but not greater than necessary under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The panel held that the anomalous result - that sentences initially tailored to avoid unwarranted disparities and to account for individualized circumstances will now converge at the low end of the guideline range - does not create an irreconcilable conflict with § 991(b). The panel explained that § 991(b) is a general statement of the Commission's goals, and that as acts of lenity, § 3582(c)(2) reductions are not constrained by the general policies underlying initial sentencing or even plenary resentencing proceedings.

         Rejecting the defendants' contention that § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment by irrationally denying sentence reductions to offenders who received lower sentences while granting them to those who originally received higher sentences, the panel held that the defendants have not shown that § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) fails rational basis review.

         The panel rejected the contention by two defendants that applying the current version of § 1B1.10 to them violates due process because they entered into their plea agreements prior to its amendment. The panel explained that the defendants' failure to receive a benefit from Amendment 782, which was promulgated after their pleas and is governed by limitations on its sentence reductions, is not the result of a retroactive deprivation of a pre-existing benefit, but rather the result of a prospective grant of a limited benefit.

          OPINION

          W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge.

         Armando Padilla-Diaz, Jeffrey Heckman, and Bernardo Contreras Guzman ("Defendants") in these consolidated cases appeal the district courts' denials of their motions for sentence reductions under United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G.") Amendment 782 and 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Each defendant was denied a reduction based on an application of the Sentencing Commission's Policy Statement § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A), which prohibits courts from reducing a defendant's "term of imprisonment" to "less than the minimum of the amended guideline range, " absent circumstances not present here. All three defendants contend that § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) is invalid because it conflicts with 28 U.S.C. § 991(b) and violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Defendants Padilla-Diaz and Heckman, who entered their pleas before the current version of § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) was ...


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