Lynce v. Mathis, 957452

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEVENS
Citation519 U.S. 433,137 L.Ed.2d 63,117 S.Ct. 891
PartiesKenneth LYNCE, Petitioner, v. Hamilton MATHIS, Superintendent, Tomoka Correctional Institution, et al
Docket Number957452
Decision Date19 February 1997

519 U.S. 433
117 S.Ct. 891
137 L.Ed.2d 63
Kenneth LYNCE, Petitioner,

v.

Hamilton MATHIS, Superintendent, Tomoka Correctional Institution, et al.

No. 95-7452.
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued Nov. 4, 1996.
Decided Feb. 19, 1997.
Syllabus *

Beginning in 1983 the Florida Legislature enacted a series of statutes authorizing the award of early release credits to prison inmates when the state prison population exceeded predetermined levels. In 1986 petitioner received a 22-year prison sentence on a charge of attempted murder. In 1992 he was released based on the determination that he had accumulated five different types of early release credits totaling 5,668 days, including 1,860 days of "provisional credits'' awarded as a result of prison overcrowding. Shortly thereafter, the state attorney general issued an opinion interpreting a 1992 statute as having retroactively canceled all provisional credits awarded to inmates convicted of murder and attempted murder. Petitioner was therefore rearrested and returned to custody. He filed a habeas corpus petition alleging that the retroactive cancellation of provisional credits violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. Relying on precedent rejecting this argument on the ground that the sole purpose of these credits was to alleviate prison overcrowding, the District Court dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals denied a certificate of probable cause.

Held: The 1992 statute canceling provisional release credits violates the Ex Post Facto Clause. Pp. ___-___.

(a) This Court rejects respondents' contention that the cancellation of petitioner's provisional credits did not violate the Clause because the credits had been issued as part of administrative procedures designed to alleviate prison overcrowding and were therefore not an integral part of petitioner's punishment. To fall within the ex post facto prohibition, a law must be retrospective and "disadvantage the offender affected by it,'' Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 29, 101 S.Ct. 960, 964, 67 L.Ed.2d 17, by, inter alia, increasing the punishment for the crime, see Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37, 50, 110 S.Ct. 2715, 2723, 111 L.Ed.2d 30. The operation of the 1992 statute was clearly retrospective, and a determination that it disadvantaged petitioner by increasing his punishment is supported by Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S., at 36, 101 S.Ct., at 968, in which the Court held that retroactively decreasing the amount of gain-time awarded for an inmate's good behavior violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. Because Weaver and subsequent cases focused on whether the legislature's action lengthened the prisoner's sentence without examining the subjective purposes behind the sentencing scheme, see, e.g., id., at 33, 101 S.Ct., at 966, the fact that the generous gain-time provisions in Florida's 1983 statute were motivated more by the interest in avoiding overcrowding than by a desire to reward good behavior is not relevant to the essential ex post facto inquiry. California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. ____, 115 S.Ct. 1597, 1602, 131 L.Ed.2d 588, distinguished. Respondents are foreclosed by Weaver, 450 U.S., at 32, 101 S.Ct., at 966, to the extent they argue that overcrowding gain-time is not in some technical sense part of the sentence. Their further argument that petitioner could not reasonably have expected to receive any overcrowding credits when he entered his guilty plea is singularly unpersuasive, given the facts that he was actually awarded 1,860 days and that those credits were retroactively cancelled as a result of the 1992 statute. Pp. ___-___.

(b) The Court disagrees with respondents' argument that petitioner is not entitled to relief because his provisional overcrowding credits were awarded pursuant to statutes enacted after the date of his offense rather than pursuant to the 1983 statute. Although the overcrowding statute in effect at the time of his crime was slightly modified in subsequent years, its basic elements remained the same, and the changes do not affect his core ex post facto claim. However, the differences in the statutes may have affected the precise amount of release time he received. Because this point was not adequately developed earlier in the proceeding, and because it may not in any event affect petitioner's entitlement to release, the Court leaves it open for further consideration on remand. Pp. ___-___.

Reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., join. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which SCALIA, J., joined.

Joel T. Remland, Orlando, FL, for petitioner.

Parker D. Thomson, Miami, FL, for respondents.

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1983 and thereafter the Florida Legislature enacted a series of statutes authorizing the Department of Corrections to award early release credits to prison inmates when the population of the state prison system exceeded predetermined levels. The question presented by this case is whether a 1992 statute canceling such credits for certain classes of offenders after they had been awarded-indeed, after they had resulted in the prisoners' release from custody-violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Federal Constitution.

I

In 1986 petitioner pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of attempted murder and received a sentence of 22 years (8,030 days) in prison. In 1992 the Florida Department of Corrections released him from prison based on its determination that he had accumulated five different types of early release credits totaling 5,668 days.1 Of that total, 1,860 days were "provisional credits'' awarded as a result of prison overcrowding. Shortly after petitioner's release, the state attorney general issued an opinion interpreting a 1992 statute as having retroactively canceled all provisional credits awarded to inmates convicted of murder or attempted murder. Petitioner was therefore rearrested and returned to custody. His new release date was set for May 19, 1998.

In 1994 petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that the retroactive cancellation of provisional credits violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. Relying on 11th Circuit2 and Florida3 precedent holding that the revocation of provisional credits did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause because their sole purpose was to alleviate prison overcrowding, the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of the petition. The District Court adopted that recommendation, dismissed the petition, and denied a certificate of probable cause. The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit also denied a certificate of probable cause in an unpublished order. Because the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit reached a different conclusion on similar facts, Arnold v. Cody, 951 F.2d 280 (1991), we granted certiorari to resolve the conflict. 517 U.S. ____, 116 S.Ct. 1671, 134 L.Ed.2d 775 (1996). 4

II

Motivated largely by the overcrowded condition of the entire Florida prison system, 5 in 1983 the State Legislature enacted the Correctional Reform Act of 1983, a comprehensive revision of the State's sentencing laws. 6 The Act authorized generous awards of early release credits including "basic gain-time'' at the rate of 10 days for each month, "up to 20 days of incentive gain time, which shall be credited and applied monthly,'' and additional deductions of "meritorious gain-time of from 1 to 60 days.'' See 1983 Fla. Laws, ch. 83-131 §8. 7 The Act also created an emergency procedure to be followed "whenever the population of the state correctional system exceeds 98 percent of the lawful capacity of the system for males or females, or both.'' §5(1). 8 When such an emergency was declared, "the sentences of all inmates in the system who are eligible to earn gain-time shall be reduced by the credit of up to 30 days gain-time in 5-day increments as may be necessary to reduce the inmate population to 97 percent of lawful capacity.'' §5(2).

In the ensuing years, the Florida Legislature modified the overcrowding gain-time system. In 1987 the legislature raised the threshold for awarding emergency release credits from 98% to 99% of capacity. At the same time, the legislature authorized a new form of overcrowding credit, administrative gain-time, with a 98% threshold, which authorized up to a maximum of 60 days additional gain-time to inmates already earning incentive gain-time. Inmates serving sentences for certain offenses were ineligible for the awards. In 1988 the legislature repealed the administrative gain-time provision, and replaced it with a provisional credits system. 9 The language of the provisional credits statute was virtually identical to that of the administrative gain-time statute-it also authorized up to 60 days of gain-time but was triggered when the inmate population reached 97.5% of capacity. In addition, the legislature expanded the list of offenders who were ineligible for the awards.

Having received overcrowding gain-time under the administrative gain-time and provisional credits statutes, as well as basic and incentive gain-time, petitioner was released from prison in 1992. That same year, the legislature canceled provisional overcrowding credits for certain classes of inmates, including those convicted of attempted murder. 10 As a result of that action, credits for 2,789 inmates who were still in custody were canceled, and rearrest warrants were issued for 164 offenders who had been released. 11 Petitioner was in the latter class.

Respondents contend that the cancellation of petitioner's provisional credits did not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause for two reasons: (1) because the credits had been issued as part of administrative procedures designed to alleviate overcrowding, they were not an integral part of petitioner's punishment; and (2) in petitioner's case, the...

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723 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Richards, Docket No. 98-7676
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 10, 2000
    ...the offender affected by it by altering the definition of criminal conduct or increasing the punishment for his crime." Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 441 (1997)(quoting Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 30 (1981)). Although this court has not yet addressed the issue, several federal circuit c......
  • Pelissero v. Thompson, Nos. 97-6156
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1998
    ...to which a defendant was automatically entitled at the time of his crime, the Ex Post Facto Clause would be violated. See Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 117 S.Ct. 891, 898, 137 L.Ed.2d 63 (1997) (retroactive application of state law eliminating gain time credits "actually awarded" to petiti......
  • U.S. v. De La Mata, Nos. 00-10201
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 27, 2001
    ...us find that Grimes was wrongly decided, and that 72 years of uniform jurisprudence has been overruled sub silentio by Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 117 S.Ct. 891 (1997) and Carmell v. Texas, 529 U.S. 513, 120 S.Ct. 1620 (2000). In Lynce, the Supreme Court invalidated a Florida statute whi......
  • Berkley v. Quarterman, No. EP-06-CV-111-FM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • August 24, 2007
    ...around the federal exhaustion and procedural default doctrines. Contrary to petitioner's suggestion, the footnote in Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 436 n. 4, 117 S.Ct. 891, 893 n. 4, 137 L.Ed.2d 63 (1997), merely recites that, in that case, the State failed to raise a defense at any level o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
723 cases
  • U.S. v. Richards, Docket No. 98-7676
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 10, 2000
    ...the offender affected by it by altering the definition of criminal conduct or increasing the punishment for his crime." Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 441 (1997)(quoting Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 30 (1981)). Although this court has not yet addressed the issue, several federal circuit c......
  • Pelissero v. Thompson, Nos. 97-6156
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1998
    ...to which a defendant was automatically entitled at the time of his crime, the Ex Post Facto Clause would be violated. See Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 117 S.Ct. 891, 898, 137 L.Ed.2d 63 (1997) (retroactive application of state law eliminating gain time credits "actually awarded" to petiti......
  • U.S. v. De La Mata, Nos. 00-10201
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 27, 2001
    ...us find that Grimes was wrongly decided, and that 72 years of uniform jurisprudence has been overruled sub silentio by Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 117 S.Ct. 891 (1997) and Carmell v. Texas, 529 U.S. 513, 120 S.Ct. 1620 (2000). In Lynce, the Supreme Court invalidated a Florida statute whi......
  • Berkley v. Quarterman, No. EP-06-CV-111-FM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • August 24, 2007
    ...around the federal exhaustion and procedural default doctrines. Contrary to petitioner's suggestion, the footnote in Lynce v. Mathis, 519 U.S. 433, 436 n. 4, 117 S.Ct. 891, 893 n. 4, 137 L.Ed.2d 63 (1997), merely recites that, in that case, the State failed to raise a defense at any level o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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