412 F.3d 526 (4th Cir. 2005), 04-6891, Yi v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

Docket Nº:04-6891.
Citation:412 F.3d 526
Party Name:David YI, Petitioner-Appellant, v. FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS; Vanessa P. Adams, Warden of FCI-Petersburg, Respondents-Appellees. The Office of the Federal Public Defender, Amicus Supporting Appellant.
Case Date:June 17, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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412 F.3d 526 (4th Cir. 2005)

David YI, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS; Vanessa P. Adams, Warden of FCI-Petersburg, Respondents-Appellees.

The Office of the Federal Public Defender, Amicus Supporting Appellant.

No. 04-6891.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 17, 2005

Argued March 18, 2005.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ARGUED:

Mark Owen Gabrielson, Holland & Knight, L.L.P., Seattle, Washington, for Appellant.

Tara Louise Casey, Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellees.

Sarah Sargent Gannett, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, Maryland, for Amicus Curiae.

ON BRIEF:

Christopher H. Howard, Holland & Knight, L.L.P., Seattle, Washington, for Appellant.

Paul J. McNulty, United States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellees.

James Wyda, Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, Maryland, for Amicus Curiae.

Before WILLIAMS, MOTZ, and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge DUNCAN wrote the opinion, in which Judge WILLIAMS and Judge MOTZ joined.

OPINION

DUNCAN, Circuit Judge.

David Yi appeals from the district court's order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Yi contends that he has earned more credit for "Good Conduct Time" than the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") has awarded him under 18 U.S.C. § 3624, a federal law that authorizes the BOP to reduce sentences for good behavior. For the following reasons, we affirm.

I.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3624, prisoners who "display[ ] exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations" may earn credit toward the service of their sentence. 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1). Credit for good conduct time ("GCT") is subtracted from the prisoner's sentence, such that the prisoner becomes eligible for release before serving the full sentence imposed by the sentencing court. 18 U.S.C. § 3624(a). The statute delegates authority to the BOP to calculate and award GCT credits. In particular, subsection (b) provides that:

[A] prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year[,] other than a term of imprisonment for the duration of the prisoner's life, may receive credit toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term, subject to determination by the Bureau of Prisons that, during that year, the prisoner has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations.... [I]f the Bureau determined that, during that year, the prisoner has not satisfactorily complied with such institutional regulations, the prisoner shall receive no such credit toward service of the prisoner's sentence or shall receive such lesser credit as the Bureau determines to be appropriate.... [C]redit for the last year or portion of a year of the term of imprisonment shall be prorated and credited within the last six months of the sentence.

18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1).

Yi is currently serving a 151-month sentence for his role in a conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. 18 U.S.C. § 1962. Yi has been incarcerated since November 21, 1994. Without credit for good behavior, he would be released upon the expiration of his sentence on June 22, 2007.

The BOP has determined, however, that Yi can earn a maximum of 592 days of credit against his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3624.

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The BOP arrives at this figure by awarding up to 54 days' GCT for each year the inmate serves in prison. For example, before this litigation commenced, Yi served more than eight years of his 151-month sentence. After each year in prison, Yi received a credit of 54 days toward the service of his sentence for good behavior. Consequently, after serving eight years of his sentence, Yi accumulated a total of 432 days' GCT. Barring any disciplinary action, the BOP projects that Yi will earn an additional 160 days' GCT as he serves out the remainder of his sentence. 1 Thus, the BOP expects to award Yi a total of 592 days' GCT under 18 U.S.C. § 3624. After subtracting the total amount of GCT that can be earned on his 151-month sentence, the BOP has determined that Yi will become eligible for release on November 7, 2005.

The BOP's method of calculating GCT appears in BOP Program Statement 5880.28, which is part of the agency's Sentencing Computation Manual. The BOP has also promulgated a rule, pursuant to the notice and comment procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 553, setting forth its interpretation of the GCT statute. The rule states that "[p]ursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), ... an inmate earns 54 days credit toward service of sentence (good conduct time credit) for each year served." 28 C.F.R. § 523.20.

Yi contends that the BOP's method of calculating GCT is contrary to the plain language of 18 U.S.C. § 3624. He argues that by using the phrase "term of imprisonment" in subsection (b), Congress intended that the agency award GCT based upon the length of the sentence imposed, not time actually served. Stated differently, Yi contends that "term of imprisonment" in subsection (b) means "sentence imposed," not "time served." Accordingly, Yi argues that the BOP must calculate GCT by multiplying his 151-month sentence by 54, which results in a maximum of 679 days 2 of credit and his release in August of 2005.

Importantly, under Yi's interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 3624, he is not required to serve a full year before he can receive credit for good behavior. Yi contends that the statute's plain language entitles him to receive up to 54 days of credit within any given year of his sentence. Thus, in the first year of his sentence, if Yi exhibits good conduct for 311 days, he would receive 54 days of credit. On the other hand, the BOP awards credit when it determines that an inmate has demonstrated a full year of compliance with prison disciplinary regulations. 3

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Yi filed the instant habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, asserting that the BOP calculates GCT in a manner that is contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 3624. The district court denied relief on the grounds that the plain language of the statute requires the computation of GCT on the basis of time actually served. In the alternative, the district court held that the BOP's construction of the statute was reasonable under Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984).

Yi now appeals.

II.

We review the district court's order denying Yi's habeas petition de novo. Selgeka v. Carroll, 184 F.3d 337, 342 (4th Cir.1999). In Chevron, the Supreme Court established a two-step process to guide judicial review of an agency's interpretation of a statute. First, we must determine whether the plain language of the statute directly addresses the precise question before us. "If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter; for the court, as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress." Chevron, 467 U.S. at 842-43, 104 S.Ct. 2778. However, if the statute is silent or ambiguous in expressing Congress' intent, we defer to the agency's reasonable construction of the statute. Id. at 843-44, 104 S.Ct. 2778.

A.

In this case, the precise question before us is whether GCT must be awarded based upon the length of a prisoner's sentence or his time actually served. Of course, "the first place we must look to see if Congress has spoken to the issue with which we are concerned and whether Congressional intent in that regard is clear is on the face of the statute." Kofa v. INS, 60 F.3d 1084, 1088 (4th Cir.1995) (en banc). In determining whether a statute is clear, we are guided "by reference to the language itself, the specific context in which that language is used, and the broader context of the statute as a whole." Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 341, 117 S.Ct. 843, 136 L.Ed.2d 808 (1997).

Yi contends that by directing the BOP to award "up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment," Congress plainly intended that the agency calculate GCT based upon the sentence imposed, not time served. 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b)(1) (emphasis added). Significant to his argument is the fact that the phrase "term of imprisonment" appears three times within the first sentence of subsection (b):

[A] prisoner who is serving a term of imprisonment of more than 1 year[,] other than a term of imprisonment for the duration of the prisoner's life, may receive credit toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment ....

Id. (emphasis added).

Without question, the first two references to "term of imprisonment" in subsection (b) refer to the sentence imposed. The statute declares that the BOP may award credit only to prisoners serving a term of imprisonment of more than one year, with the exception of prisoners serving a life sentence. "In this part of the statute, 'term of imprisonment' must ... refer to the sentence [imposed] because the Bureau has to determine whether a prisoner is eligible for the credit on the first day he arrives in prison." White v. Scibana, 390 F.3d 997, 1001 (7th Cir.2004). Invoking the parallelism canon of statutory construction, Yi argues that a given term

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cannot change meanings within the same sentence. See Brown v. Gardner, 513 U.S. 115, 118, 115 S.Ct. 552, 130 L.Ed.2d 462 (1994) ("[T]here is a presumption that a given term is used to mean the same thing throughout a statute, a presumption surely at its most vigorous when a term is repeated within a given sentence ....") (citation omitted). Thus, Yi argues that "term of imprisonment" must also...

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