For most of Tuesday’s 53-minute oral argument in Manrique v. United States, the Supreme Court seemed caught between two very different ways of looking at the question presented — whether a notice of appeal from an initial judgment of conviction and sentence in a federal criminal case can also encompass a challenge to the district court’s subsequent restitution determination under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. On one hand, as Assistant Federal Defender Paul Rashkind argued on behalf of petitioner Marcelo Manrique, there is a longstanding norm that one notice of appeal suffices in criminal cases, so the court of appeals erred by holding that it could not reach Manrique’s challenge to the amount of restitution ordered in his case because he did not separately notice an appeal from that judgment. On the other hand, as Assistant to the Solicitor General Allon Kedem argued on behalf of the United States, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure don’t appear to cover such a situation – and it would be unprecedented to allow a notice of appeal to encompass matters that have not yet been determined. And although predicting a result based upon oral argument is always a fraught proposition, the six justices who asked questions certainly seemed to be leaning toward the government’s view by the end of the session.
And here is the transcript. Paul Rashkind did a great job arguing with a skeptical bench. Requiring a defendant to file two notices of appeal seems so formalistic and silly to me. The simply solution is to have one notice that covers both the sentence and restitution. But I guess that's too easy?
And what's with Justice Breyer -- he has just gotten so crotchety lately. Yes, he has been really bad for defendants for a while now, but he used to be polite about it.