Ruth Bader Ginsburg flips, supporting conservative stance in criminal sentencing decision

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the Supreme Court reached its decision 'by adopting a backward-looking approach'

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 04 June 2019 13:17 BST
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sided with the Supreme Court’s conservative justices in a criminal sentencing case that ended with a 5-4 decision.

The court determined a defendant can be sentenced for violating their supervised release — even if that release was to expire during their incarceration while facing new charges.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the Supreme Court reached its decision “by adopting a backward-looking approach.”

“Because I cannot agree that a person ‘is imprisoned in connection with a conviction’ before any conviction has occurred, I respectfully dissent,” she added.

Ms Ginsburg joined Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts and Samuel Alito in the majority decision.

Meanwhile, Neil Gorsuch — a Supreme Court justice nominated by Donald Trump — sided with the court’s liberal justices.

In his majority opinion, Mr Thomas wrote “time in pretrial detention constitutes supervised release only if the charges against the defendant are dismissed or the defendant is acquitted."

“This ensures that the defendant is not faulted for conduct he might not have committed,” he added, “while otherwise giving full effect to the lawful judgement previously imposed on the defendant."

The decision arrived in the case of Jason J Mont v The United States. The defendant had served 84 months as part of a conviction surrounding felony gun and drug charges, but he faced new additional charges in 2015 and 2016.

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Despite being scheduled for a five-year supervised release due to end in March 2017, the defendant was determined to have violated his supervised release and had another prison sentence imposed on him by a district court.

Attorneys for Mont argued the court had repeatedly delayed his hearing until after the supervised release term had expired. Mont is now scheduled to serve another 42 months in prison beginning immediately after the sentencing for his latest charges.

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