New opinion — revocation of supervised release must proceed before supervision expires

United States v. Merlino — criminal — reversal — Vanaskie

Today, the Third Circuit held that district courts lack jurisdiction to revoke a criminal defendant’s supervised release and impose a revocation sentence when the warrant or summons issues after the term of supervised release has already expired. That’s good news for the defendant here, reputed Philly organized crime boss (and now restaurant maitre d’)  Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino. (The court had announced the outcome a couple weeks ago.)

The facts weren’t great for the defense. Merlino’s supervised-release term ran through September 6, 2014. In June of 2014, he was seen “conversing with several convicted felons” at a cigar bar. On September 2, the district court ordered issuance of a summons, but Merlino’s lawyer got the court to postpone the revocation hearing until October, which in turn delayed issuance of the summons. Then in October, Merlino argued that the court now lacked jurisdiction. It is easy to understand why dissenting Judge Shwartz describes Merlino’s win as “an odd result,” and I suspect many defense lawyers whose valid scheduling issues now get ignored will rue the result here.

Joining Vanaskie was Ambro, who concurred separately; as noted, Shwartz dissented. Arguing counsel were Edwin Jacobs for Merlino and David Troyer for the government.