Supreme Court Update
The U.S. Supreme Court issued two opinions April 19 on refunding court costs and restitution, and on appealing restitution.
In Nelson v. Colorado, the Court held when a defendant has a conviction set aside, due process requires the government to refund restitution and court costs paid by the defendant, without the defendant having to prove actual innocence. Absent conviction of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent, and is entitled to a refund.
In Manrique v. United States, the Court held that in order to appeal an order imposing restitution in a deferred restitution case, a defendant must file a notice of appeal following that order. A prior notice appealing the conviction and sentence was not effective to cover the restitution order.
Shannon Nelson and Louis Madden had been convicted of offenses at trial, and paid court costs, fees or restitution.
Later, Nelson had her conviction reversed on appeal due to trial error. She was acquitted on retrial. Madden’s convictions were reversed either on direct appeal or in postconviction. The government chose not to retry Madden.
Nelson and Madden sought a refund of the money they paid. Colorado contended that they had to prove actual innocence under a state exoneration law in order to receive a refund.
The Supreme Court held that requiring them to prove actual innocence to receive a refund violates procedural due process.
“[O]nce [their] convictions were erased, the presumption of their innocence was restored,” a six member majority said. “Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, [is] nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions.”
“[T]o get their money back, defendants should not be saddled with any proof burden,” the Court said. “Colorado has no interest in withholding from Nelson and Madden money to which the State currently has zero claim of right.”
“To comport with due process, a State may not impose anything more than minimal procedures on the refund of exactions dependent upon a conviction subsequently invalidated,” the Court concluded.
Justice Alito concurred on different grounds, but also believed the Court’s opinion was too “sweeping.” He believed there may be some circumstances where refunds would not be constitutionally required.
Justice Thomas dissented.
Marcelo Manrique was convicted of a child pornography offense. He was sentenced to 72 months in prison, but the court postponed determining restitution because the victim’s damages had not yet been determined.
Meanwhile, Manrique filed a notice of appeal of his conviction and sentence.
Later, the court entered an amended judgment ordering Manrique to pay $4,500 in restitution. Manrique did not file a notice of appeal from the amended judgment.
Despite not filing a second notice of appeal, Manrique sought to challenge the restitution order in his appeal before the 11th Circuit. The Government claimed he forfeited this challenge by failing to file a second notice of appeal. The 11th Circuit agreed.
In a 6-2 opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed. It held the failure to file a second notice of appeal after the restitution order forfeited any challenge to the restitution.
“[D]eferred restitution cases involve two appealable judgments, not one,” the Court said.
The Court said it did not need to decide whether the filing of a notice of appeal is a “jurisdictional prerequisite,” because the filing is “at least a mandatory claim-processing rule.”
Unlike jurisdictional rules, claim-processing rules can be waived if a party asserting the rule “waits too long to raise the point.” But if a party properly raises them, they are “unalterable,” the Court said.
Here, the Government timely raised the argument before the Court of Appeals that Manrique had failed to file a notice of appeal regarding the restitution order.
Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.